B12 Solipsism

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Archive for the ‘TSA’ tag

Thursday Leftovers – Plate 5

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Some snacks while you wait…

Exiled and Wandering
Exiled and Wandering

Road innovation, what’s not to love?

Founded in 2008, in Chicago, IL, LANDLOCK® Natural Paving, Inc has set out to solve the world’s infrastructure needs, both in road building and dust suppression.   Our reach is global, and we’re proud to be the industry leader in our field.

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Asphalt, as a primary paving solution, has increasingly proven expensive and environmentally irresponsible because of its reliance on crude oil, poor durability, need for maintenance and pollution.

To respond to this need for a reliable, cost-effective and durable paving solution, LANDLOCK® has emerged as a respected, reliable international distributor of a patented paving technology that is among the most cost-effective, durable, strong, sustainable and easy to build. Most of all, it is superior to asphalt: less expensive, more durable, easier to install and more sustainable.

Environmentally, asphalt incurs a high cost because of the toxic footprint of the fuel-inefficient trucks that must drive back and forth to the plant; and because of the petroleum in asphalt that leaches into the groundwater and, when hot, pollutes the air, proving toxic for the workers laying the asphalt. Finally, the added cost of maintenance comes into play when inevitable erosion and potholes arise with time and changing climate patterns, necessitating frequent repeats to the whole expensive process.

 

(click here to continue reading About Us | LANDLOCK® Natural Paving | The Future of Road Building is Here….)

The Waiting is The Hardest Part
The Waiting is The Hardest Part

I think we can all agree that the TSA should be abolished, sooner than later:

The TSA is hard to evaluate largely because it’s attempting to solve a non-problem. Despite some very notable cases, airplane hijackings and bombings are quite rare. There aren’t that many attempts, and there are even fewer successes. That makes it hard to judge if the TSA is working properly — if no one tries to do a liquid-based attack, then we don’t know if the 3-ounce liquid rule prevents such attacks.

So Homeland Security officials looking to evaluate the agency had a clever idea: They pretended to be terrorists, and tried to smuggle guns and bombs onto planes 70 different times. And 67 of those times, the Red Team succeeded. Their weapons and bombs were not confiscated, despite the TSA’s lengthy screening process. That’s a success rate of more than 95 percent.

It’s easy to make too much of high failure rates like that. As security expert Bruce Schneier likes to note, such screenings don’t have to be perfect; they just have to be good enough to make terrorists change their plans: “No terrorist is going to base his plot on getting a gun through airport security if there’s a decent chance of getting caught, because the consequences of getting caught are too great.”

But even Schneier says 95 percent was embarrassingly high, and probably not “good enough” for those purposes. If you’re a prospective terrorist looking at that stat, you might think smuggling a gun onto a plane is worth a shot.

Schneier isn’t a TSA defender by any means. He likes to note that there’s basically zero evidence the agency has prevented any attacks. The TSA claims it won’t provide examples of such cases due to national security, but given its history of bragging about lesser successes, that’s a little tough to believe. For instance, the agency bragged plenty about catching Kevin Brown, an Army vet who tried to check pipe bomb-making materials. Brown wasn’t going to blow up the plane — the unfinished materials were in his checked luggage — but if the TSA publicized that, why wouldn’t it publicize catching someone who was trying to blow up the plane?

(click here to continue reading The TSA is a waste of money that doesn’t save lives and might actually cost them – Vox.)

Chicago Sun-Times News Shack
Chicago Sun-Times News Shack

People like Peter Thiel would be better served if they left the United States and started their own country somewhere else, leaving the rest of us normals alone:

Peter Thiel, foremost among Silicon Valley’s loopy libertarians and the first outside investor in Facebook, has written an essay declaring that the country went to hell as soon as women won the right to vote.

Thiel is the former CEO of PayPal who now runs the $2 billion hedge fund Clarium Capital and a venture-capital firm called the Founders Fund. His best-returning investment to date, though, has been Facebook. His $500,000 investment is now worth north of $100 million even by the most conservative valuations of the social network.

On the side, though, his pet passion is libertarianism and the fantasy that everything would be better in the world if government just quit nagging everybody. But, now he’s given up hope on achieving his vision through political means because, as he writes in Cato Unbound, a website run by the Cato Institute, all those voting females have wrecked things

(click here to continue reading Facebook Backer Wishes Women Couldn’t Vote.)

I’d be very leery of doing business with Mr. Thiel, he seems like he could fly off the handle very easily, and hold a grudge about it for years. But you might never hear about it, because the media that covers Silicon Valley is more like a PR machine than journalistic:

I would like to think that I would know more about whether this sort of thing is typical of Thiel’s behavior because there would be enough evidence of it one way or the other in tech press. But I don’t think there would be. A lot of self-censoring happens in the tech industry because people fear blowback — and in a way that I haven’t experienced in finance or publishing. Entrepreneurs genuinely worry that capital markets won’t be accessible to them if they express any kind of criticism, or talk about the bad things that happen in the industry. (I am not of that opinion, obviously, but as the former CTO of a big tech co told me a couple of weeks ago with a bit of an eyeroll, “you’re not normal anyway, Spiers.”)

Another factor: I think Thiel aside, tech press is largely fawning toward successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, and mostly unintentionally. Journalists who haven’t worked in tech themselves are sometimes genuinely and sincerely enamored with the promise of what they’re looking at and are so dazzled that they fail to ask the questions they should. Some of them are lazy and it’s always easier as a journalist to write the glowing lightweight story, where no one’s going to press you to nail down the facts and you won’t get any blowback from sources or subjects. Ultimately, this has created a sense of entitlement in the industry where denizens of Silicon Valley expect the media to actively support them and any negative portrayals are met with real anger and resentment, even when they’re 100% accurate. And it’s never the media’s job to support the industry — that’s PR. It’s the media’s job to cover it, the good and the bad. But if you’re not used to being covered, and that would describe 99% of the tech industry, the scrutiny can be uncomfortable.

(click here to continue reading On Peter Thiel and Gawker : Elizabeth Spiers.)

Trump Stamp
Trump Stamp

Does Donald Trump have a long history with the mob? David Jay Johnston thinks Trump might:

6. Trump Tower is not a steel girder high rise, but 58 stories of concrete.

Why did you use concrete instead of traditional steel girders?

7. Trump Tower was built by S&A Concrete, whose owners were “Fat” Tony Salerno, head of the Genovese crime family, and Paul “Big Paul” Castellano, head of the Gambinos, another well-known crime family.

If you did not know of their ownership, what does that tell voters about your management skills?

8. You later used S&A Concrete on other Manhattan buildings bearing your name.

Why?

9. In demolishing the Bonwit Teller building to make way for Trump Tower, you had no labor troubles, even though only about 15 unionists worked at the site alongside 150 Polish men, most of whom entered the country illegally, lacked hard hats, and slept on the site.

How did you manage to avoid labor troubles, like picketing and strikes, and job safety inspections while using mostly non-union labor at a union worksite — without hard hats for the Polish workers?

10. A federal judge later found you conspired to cheat both the Polish workers, who were paid less than $5 an hour cash with no benefits, and the union health and welfare fund. You testified that you did not notice the Polish workers, whom the judge noted were easy to spot because they were the only ones on the work site without hard hats.

What should voters make of your failure or inability to notice 150 men demolishing a multi-story building without hard hats?

11. You sent your top lieutenant, lawyer Harvey I. Freeman, to negotiate with Ken Shapiro, the “investment banker” for Nicky Scarfo, the especially vicious killer who was Atlantic City’s mob boss, according to federal prosecutors and the New Jersey State Commission on Investigation.

Since you emphasize your negotiating skills, why didn’t you negotiate yourself?

12. You later paid a Scarfo associate twice the value of a lot, officials determined.

Since you boast that you always negotiate the best prices, why did you pay double the value of this real estate?

(click here to continue reading 21 Questions for Donald Trump.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 26th, 2016 at 8:11 am

Airport Security Is A Sham

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The Truth Is Not So Comfortable
The Truth Is Not So Comfortable

The TSA is a joke, as is 98% of American airport security protocols. It isn’t that we passengers want unsafe flights, it is that the anti-terror measures taken are simply security theatre, and not at all an enhancement of our safety.

But it is absurd for the T.S.A. to demand background checks and fingerprinting for what amount to small modifications in the screening routine. The agency could relax airport security for everyone without gravely endangering the traveling public.

The former head of the T.S.A., Kip Hawley, has argued that the agency should allow passengers to carry on all liquids, in any quantity. As a safeguard against explosives, passengers would simply have to put their liters of Evian in gray bins and pass them through scanners. Mr. Hawley sees reasons for keeping footwear checks, but those, too, are of questionable value. Passengers do not remove their shoes in the European Union, or even in Israel, one of the world’s most security-conscious countries, with a famously stringent screening process.

It is time to stop pretending that annoying protocols like these are all that stand between us and devastation. The most effective security innovation post-9/11 was also the simplest: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, which has made it virtually impossible to hijack an aircraft.

As things stand, the T.S.A. asks its officers to enforce rules of questionable utility while giving them remarkably little discretion; they’re more like hall monitors than intelligence personnel. That is a huge waste of human talent and a source of inefficiency. At Heathrow Airport in London, passengers need to remove their shoes only if asked to do so by security officers. Imagine that: a screening agent entrusted with the solemn power to wave through a teenager in flip-flops en route to Honolulu.

(click here to continue reading Airport Security Without the Hassle – NYTimes.com.)

Ready For Take Off
Ready For Take Off

Kip Hawley, the former head of TSA, admits what we knew, the TSA was more concerned about confiscating our nail clippers than stopping a terror incident:

More than a decade after 9/11, it is a national embarrassment that our airport security system remains so hopelessly bureaucratic and disconnected from the people whom it is meant to protect. Preventing terrorist attacks on air travel demands flexibility and the constant reassessment of threats. It also demands strong public support, which the current system has plainly failed to achieve.

The crux of the problem, as I learned in my years at the helm, is our wrongheaded approach to risk. In attempting to eliminate all risk from flying, we have made air travel an unending nightmare for U.S. passengers and visitors from overseas, while at the same time creating a security system that is brittle where it needs to be supple.

By the time of my arrival, the agency was focused almost entirely on finding prohibited items. Constant positive reinforcement on finding items like lighters had turned our checkpoint operations into an Easter-egg hunt. When we ran a test, putting dummy bomb components near lighters in bags at checkpoints, officers caught the lighters, not the bomb parts.

I wanted to reduce the amount of time that officers spent searching for low-risk objects, but politics intervened at every turn. Lighters were untouchable, having been banned by an act of Congress. And despite the radically reduced risk that knives and box cutters presented in the post-9/11 world, allowing them back on board was considered too emotionally charged for the American public.

 

(click here to continue reading Why Airport Security Is Broken—And How to Fix It – WSJ.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

July 28th, 2013 at 8:50 am

Posted in government

Tagged with ,

iPad left at airport checkpoint ends up at TSA inspector’s house – Boing Boing

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ABC News ran a sting against dirty TSA inspectors by leaving behind iPads (with tracking spyware) at ten airport checkpoints known for theft and following them electronically. One iPad, left at an Orlando checkpoint, moved 30 miles to the home of Andy Ramirez, a TSA inspector at the airport. Initially, he denied stealing the iPad, then he blamed his wife…Republicans have promised to fix this problem by firing the unionized federal workers and replacing them with private contractors. Because private contractors — not directly accountable to the government, insulated by layers of contractor/subcontractor relationships — would never, ever abuse their authority. Which is why mall security guards are the pinnacle of policing efficiency.

Via:
iPad left at airport checkpoint ends up at TSA inspector’s house – Boing Boing

Written by eggplant

September 30th, 2012 at 11:01 am

Terrorism Movie Plot Idea Number 7

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Things you probably shouldn't eat
Things you probably shouldn’t eat

Following up on the recent discussion of where germs reside in airplanes and airports, especially this part:

People get bunched up in lines, where there is plenty of coughing and sneezing. Shoes are removed and placed with other belongings into plastic security bins, which typically don’t get cleaned after they go through the scanner.

A National Academy of Sciences panel is six months into a two-year study that is taking samples at airport areas to try to pinpoint opportunities for infection.

With limited resources, airports and airlines have asked researchers to help figure out where best to target prevention, said Dr. Mark Gendreau of Boston’s Lahey Clinic Medical Center who is on the panel.

Check-in kiosks and baggage areas are other prime suspects in addition to security lines, he said.

what about a film plot that basically works off of this fact? Imagine – Christian evangelicals develop some deadly bacteria or virus, some variant of Ebola, for example, and these Christian End-of-Worlders smear their shoes, coats, and computers with it. When they take their shoes off and place them through the security line, the deadly toxins spread, and infect the next 200 people who go through this same security line. Can you just imagine if a whole plane full of people died mid-flight?

The hero could of course track the source back, but what then?

Immigration at Heathrow
Immigration at Heathrow

Tangentially related, Charles Mann and Bruce Schneier think the TSA is a joke:

To walk through an airport with Bruce Schneier is to see how much change a trillion dollars can wreak. So much inconvenience for so little benefit at such a staggering cost. And directed against a threat that, by any objective standard, is quite modest. Since 9/11, Islamic terrorists have killed just 17 people on American soil, all but four of them victims of an army major turned fanatic who shot fellow soldiers in a rampage at Fort Hood. (The other four were killed by lone-wolf assassins.) During that same period, 200 times as many Americans drowned in their bathtubs. Still more were killed by driving their cars into deer. The best memorial to the victims of 9/11, in Schneier’s view, would be to forget most of the “lessons” of 9/11. “It’s infuriating,” he said, waving my fraudulent boarding pass to indicate the mass of waiting passengers, the humming X-ray machines, the piles of unloaded computers and cell phones on the conveyor belts, the uniformed T.S.A. officers instructing people to remove their shoes and take loose change from their pockets. “We’re spending billions upon billions of dollars doing this—and it is almost entirely pointless. Not only is it not done right, but even if it was done right it would be the wrong thing to do.”

(click here to continue reading Does Airport Security Really Make Us Safer? | Culture | Vanity Fair.)

Written by Seth Anderson

December 22nd, 2011 at 2:53 pm

links for 2011-03-28

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  • The Transportation Security Administration is reanalyzing the radiation levels of X-ray body scanners installed in airports nationwide, after testing produced dramatically higher-than-expected results. The TSA, which has deployed at least 500 body scanners to at least 78 airports, said Tuesday the machines meet all safety standards and would remain in operation despite a “calculation error” in safety studies. The flawed results showed radiation levels 10 times higher than expected.
    (tags: tsa travel)
  • The American right is trapped in a hyperbolic and dysfunctional worldTo have credibility within the Republican party is to have none outside it. They act as if all their Kool-Aid has been spiked  Polls suggest there are between one in three and one in four Americans who would believe anything. More than a third thought President George Bush did a good job during Hurricane Katrina; half of those thought he was excellent.
    (tags: Rethuglicans)
    _2033_2298550293_29c1f690b9_o.jpg
  • Eminem sued his record label, the Universal Music Group, over the way royalties are computed for digital music, which boils down to whether an individual song sold online should be considered a license or a sale. The difference is far from academic because, as with most artists, Eminem’s contract stipulates that he gets 50 percent of the royalties for a license but only 12 percent for a sale. “As of now it’s worth $17 million or $20 million, but on a future accounting basis, five or 10 years from now, it could easily be a $40 million to $50 million issue,” said Joel Martin, the manager of F.B.T. Productions in Detroit, which first signed Eminem
    3082726817_c3d132f415_o.jpg
  • By now, you may have heard of the little app that could(n’t), Color. Funded to the tune of $41M pre-launch, co-founded by a prestigious Silicon Valley entprepreneur and already brimming with 27 employees, you’d expect the product to be decent if not extraordinary. And you’d be wrong.
    (tags: mobile iPhone PR)
    GirlFromChicago.jpg
  • In the wake of the demonstrations during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, the city produced a white wash entitled “What Trees Did They Plant?” TV Stations that broadcast the film had to offer equal time to those speaking in opposition. One group was the Youth International Party or Yippies who produced this film. Paul Krassner wrote the script. Some classic film footage was re-mixed with footage shot during the demonstrations. There is some missing audio from this copy.

Written by swanksalot

March 28th, 2011 at 7:02 am

Posted in Links

Tagged with , ,

Bored at Midway

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Figures, the first time I actually left for the airport early, traffic to Midway was virtually nil, security lines were nearly microscopic, and since there aren’t backscatter machines at Midway1 there wasn’t any TSA gropefests, and thus I am here at the gate, way, way too early.

Footnotes:
  1. probably because the security checkin is on the second floor, and the new machines are too heavy []

Written by swanksalot

November 23rd, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Posted in Narcipost

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TSA and their new Brusque Treatment option

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Ennui at Ohare

Gah. Remind me how this will make flying safer? Oh, right, it doesn’t. Just makes flying less pleasant.

HAVING been taught by nuns in grade school and later going through military boot camp, I have always disliked uniformed authorities shouting at me. So I was unhappy last week when some security screeners at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago started yelling.

“Opt out! We got an opt out!” one bellowed about me in a tone that people in my desert neighborhood in Tucson usually reserve for declaring, “Rattlesnake!”

Other screeners took up the “Opt out!” shout. I was marched from the metal detector lane to one of those nearby whole-body imagers, ordered to take everything out of my pockets, remove my belt and hold my possessions up high. Then I was required to stand still while I received a rough pat-down by a man whose résumé, I suspected, included experience at a state prison.

“Hold your pants up!” he ordered me.

What did I do to deserve this? Well, as I approached the checkpoints, I had two choices. One was a familiar lane with the metal detector, so I put my bag on that. To my right was a separate lane dominated with what the Transportation Security Administration initially called “whole-body imagers” but has now labeled “advanced imaging technology” units. Critics, of course, call them strip-search machines.

I don’t like these things, and not just because of privacy concerns or because of what some critics have asserted are radiation safety issues with some of the machines that use X-ray technology.

No, I don’t like the fact that I have to remove every item from every pocket, including my wallet and things as trivial as a Kleenex. You then strike a pose inside with your hands submissively held above your head, like some desperado cornered by the sheriff in a Western movie, while the see-through-clothes machine makes an image of your body.

The T.S.A.’s position is that anyone can “opt out” of a body scan for reasons of privacy or whatever, but will then be subjected to a thorough physical pat-down and careful search of belongings.

(click to continue reading Skipping the Body Scanner and Taking Brusque Treatment – NYTimes.com.)

Security theatre, so fun. So useless.

Immigration at Heathrow

And Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic reports:

This past Wednesday, I showed up at Baltimore-Washington International for a flight to Providence, R.I. I had a choice of two TSA screening checkpoints. I picked mine based on the number of people waiting in line, not because I am impatient, but because the coiled, closely packed lines at TSA screening sites are the most dangerous places in airports, completely unprotected from a terrorist attack — a terrorist attack that would serve the same purpose (shutting down air travel) as an attack on board an aircraft.

Agents were funneling every passenger at this particular checkpoint through a newly installed back-scatter body imaging device, which allows the agency’s security officers to, in essence, see under your clothing. The machine captures an image of your naked self, including your genitals, and sends the image to an agent in a separate room. I don’t object to stringent security (as you will soon see), but I do object to meaningless security theater (Bruce Schneier’s phrase), and I believe that we would be better off if the TSA focused its attentions on learning the identity and background of each passenger, rather than on checking whether passengers are carrying contraband (as I suggested in this article, it is possible for a moderately clever person to move contraband through TSA screenings with a fair amount of ease, even with this new technology).

In part because of the back-scatter imager’s invasiveness (a TSA employee in Miami was arrested recently after he physically assaulted a colleague who had mocked his modestly sized penis, which was fully apparent in a captured back-scatter image), the TSA is allowing passengers to opt-out of the back-scatter and choose instead a pat-down. I’ve complained about TSA pat-downs in the past, because they, too, were more security theater than anything else. They are, as I would learn, becoming more serious, as well.

At BWI, I told the officer who directed me to the back-scatter that I preferred a pat-down. I did this in order to see how effective the manual search would be. When I made this request, a number of TSA officers, to my surprise, began laughing. I asked why. One of them — the one who would eventually conduct my pat-down — said that the rules were changing shortly, and that I would soon understand why the back-scatter was preferable to the manual search. I asked him if the new guidelines included a cavity search. “No way. You think Congress would allow that?”

(click to continue reading For the First Time, the TSA Meets Resistance – Jeffrey Goldberg – National – The Atlantic.)

No, the policy is feel your crotch area until encountering “resistance”, meaning testicles. If you are a woman, I guess that might be a slightly different experience.

Waiting, 3 AM, Milano Airport

There’s already a slightly organized counter-effort:

Think about it – the pat-down won’t be pleasant for you, but the TSA agent-turned-baggage handler isn’t going to be too thrilled about it either. If enough travelers are willing to play ball, as it were, some agents are bound to quit. Those who remain will be overwhelmed by demand for their services. Given enough defiance, the TSA simply won’t have the time or manpower to cop all the required feels. Their policy will have to change2.

So let’s try to put an end to security theatre. Let’s take back our rights, along with our dignity. Let’s remember what Ben Franklin taught us, that those who sacrifice liberty for security (or worse, the illusion of security) deserve neither. Let’s find our balls, and then make them touch ‘em.

The next time I fly, I’m going to have the TSA “meet the resistance”. Who’s with me?

(click to continue reading One Foot Tsunami: Meet the Resistance.)

 

Written by Seth Anderson

November 2nd, 2010 at 8:28 am

Posted in government

Tagged with ,

A Wakeup Call and 9-11 is a Joke

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Flight 1053

Well, one could hope it is. Patrick Smith of Salon.com has a few points to make about terrorism theatre…

For example, how is it that our sworn protectors manage to spend tens of billions of dollars each year, yet failed to stop an extremist saboteur whose own father had contacted officials to alert them to his son’s behavior and potential violence?

Well, it’s partly because the government’s list of known or suspected terrorists — the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE — contains more than half a million names. Abdulmutallab himself had been added to this list, but at a certain point a database this vast and unwieldy does more harm than good.

And although he’d been added to TIDE, Abdulmutallab had not been placed on any active watch lists or the so-called no-fly list — a failure of government intelligence sharing eerily reminiscent of the FBI-CIA disconnect that helped facilitate the 9/11 plot.

Here we are at a point where innocent preschoolers or entertainers (Cat Stevens) are denied boarding because of confusion over names, but somebody like Abdulmutallab steps onto a plane with no trouble. Our overzealous obsession with terrorism, together with bureaucratic bungling, has, predictably, bit us in the rear end.

Speaking of predictable, down on the front lines, our beleaguered Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rushed to action. The agency’s first mandate was a nonsensical and short-lived requirement that all passengers on flights over U.S. soil remain seated for the final hour of flight, with no personal belongings (personal computers, etc.) in their laps or on tray tables. The thinking here was difficult to fathom. Presumably a bomber can only act while standing up? And presumably he would call off the attack if he had to detonate, say, 70 minutes from landing instead of 60, or out over the ocean? Funny, I remember Pan Am 103 exploding in the first hour of flight, not the last.

[Click to continue reading Ask the Pilot – Salon.com]

Does the TSA do more harm than good? Is the agency’s existence just to feather the nest of security consultants and corporations such as Chertoff’s good buddy, Rapiscan?

Since the attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day, former Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff has given dozens of media interviews touting the need for the federal government to buy more full-body scanners for airports.

What he has made little mention of is that the Chertoff Group, his security consulting agency, includes a client that manufactures the machines. The relationship drew attention after Chertoff disclosed it on a CNN program Wednesday, in response to a question.

[Click to continue reading Ex-Homeland Security chief head said to abuse public trust by touting body scanners – washingtonpost.com]

Especially since jerk-store politicians like Rudy 9-11 Giuliani deny that any acts of terrorism even happened when a Republican was in the Presidency! Rudy G must actually believe that 9-11 is a joke in his town.

Rudy Giuliani on one of the morning shows today:

On “Good Morning America” Friday, the former New York mayor declared, “We had no domestic attacks under Bush; we’ve had one under Obama.”

Hmmm. He didn’t misspeak, I don’t think. It’s likely quite intentional. It’s entirely of a piece with the the whole “we kept America safe” line that Cheney and others were trumpeting as the Bushies left office, trying to think of one positive thing they could say about an administration that ruined the country in most important respects.

The idea being implanted here is that 9-11 somehow didn’t count; that it was some kind of gimme. Because it was first, and it was a surprise, and unexpected. But as we know there were plenty of warnings, and plenty of signs that were ignored. The argument takes cynical advantage of the fact that flying planes into buildings was a complete shock to your average person. But it was not a shock to the people who are paid to think about these things.

It’s quite remarkable the success this line has enjoyed, though. You’ll see a fair number of pundits on TV and the like nodding in earnest assent that the Bush administration “kept us safe after 9-11” as if 9-11 was a freebie.

[Click to continue reading 9-11 Doesn’t Count | Michael Tomasky | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk ]

Written by Seth Anderson

January 8th, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Reading Around on January 5th through January 8th

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A few interesting links collected January 5th through January 8th:

  • Letters of Note: Art is useless because… – Included in the preface to Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is the now famous and often misconstrued line, ‘All art is quite useless’. In fact, following the novel’s original publication in 1890, Oxford undergraduate Bernulf Clegg was so intrigued by the claim that he wrote to Wilde and asked him to elaborate. The following handwritten letter was Wilde’s response.
  • The Airport Scanner Scam | Mother Jones – Beyond privacy issues, however, are questions about whether these machines really work—and about who stands to benefit most from their use. When it comes to high-tech screening methods, the TSA has a dismal record of enriching private corporations with failed technologies, and there are signs that the latest miracle device may just bring more of the same.
  • Never Underestimate the Power of Stupid People
  • Buddyhead’s Best and Worst Records Of 2009 | BUDDYHEAD – Animal Collective – “Merriweather Post Pavilion”Lazy music journalists tried to act like these nerds armed with bongos and delay pedals were the second coming of The Beatles or some shit. Everyone from Mojo to Rolling Stone to Pitchdork seemed to have these fruitcakes somewhere in their top five records for 2009. These dudes couldn’t write a song if their lives depended on it, they are to songwriting what “Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” is to cinema.

Robot and Mary Anne

Written by swanksalot

January 8th, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Reading Around on December 29th

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Some additional reading December 29th from 17:09 to 23:39:


“The Philip K. Dick Collection” (Philip K. Dick)

  • Gregg Rickman- The Nature of Dick’s Fantasies – –None of Dick’s 1974 letters to the FBI appear in any of the FBI’s files on him (in Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Washington). He received a polite brush-off response to his first letter, of March 20; it is likely that the FBI ignored his later letters entirely.–There is, moreover, good reason to doubt that many of these letters were ever sent. According to his wife at the time, Tessa Dick, “Phil told me he’d only sent the first three or four letters, and he stopped mailing them, because the FBI had lost interest (or perhaps never had any interest) in the case…” (letter to author, 6/6/91). Asked why, if this were so, so many letters existed not in originals but in carbons, she replied that Dick’s procedure was to “write a letter, address and stamp an envelope, go out in the back alley, and drop the letter in the trash bin.” Dick’s reasoning was that “The authorities will receive the letter if, and only if, they are spying on him”
  • Total Dick-Head: Merry Christmas To Me! – As a scholar I think these letters are a bit dangerous (as is any piece of evidence however small and seemingly innocuous in the Case of Philip K Dick); as they are the ‘Selected Letters’ I wonder who selected them (that’s probably in an introduction I skipped), what was left out, and why. I have lots of questions, like why does Phil refer to Tessa in one letter as Leslie? Who exactly is ‘Kathy’? And why in the world did PKD write that letter to the FBI about Disch’s Camp Concentration?
  • Transcript: Climbing Mount Criterion – Roger Ebert’s Journal – I’m extremely lazy in my film reviews, but Matthew Dessem is not. His blog is in-depth reviews of every Criterion Collection film released. Roger Ebert interviewed him: Here is the complete transcript of my Q&A with Matthew Dessum, in which he goes into much greater detail about his adventure that I had room for in the paper. The photo is by Yasmin Damshenas
  • Is aviation security mostly for show? – CNN.com – “Security theater” refers to security measures that make people feel more secure without doing anything to actually improve their security. An example: the photo ID checks that have sprung up in office buildings. No one has ever explained why verifying that someone has a photo ID provides any actual security, but it looks like security to have a uniformed guard-for-hire looking at ID cards. Airport-security examples include the National Guard troops stationed at U.S. airports in the months after 9/11 — their guns had no bullets. The U.S. color-coded system of threat levels, the pervasive harassment of photographers, and the metal detectors that are increasingly common in hotels and office buildings since the Mumbai terrorist attacks, are additional examples.

Written by swanksalot

December 30th, 2009 at 12:00 am

Reading Around on December 11th through December 12th

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A few interesting links collected December 11th through December 12th:

  • No Moods, Ads or Cutesy Fucking Icons (Re-reloaded) » Squidgate. Update. – I have three comments about the allegations therein. Firstly, the story claims that I was entering the US, not leaving it: this is empirically false. Secondly, I find it interesting that these guys characterise “pulling away” as “aggressive” behavior; I myself would regard it as a retreat. And thirdly, I did not “choke” anyone. I state this categorically. And having been told that cameras were in fact on site, I look forward to seeing the footage they provide.
  • Chicago Eats | Travel | Smithsonian Magazine – In 1951, author Nelson Algren wrote of Chicago streets “where the shadow of the tavern and the shadow of the church form a single dark and double-walled dead end.” Yet President Barack Obama’s hometown is also a city of hope. Visionaries, reformers, poets and writers, from Theodore Dreiser and Carl Sandburg to Richard Wright, Saul Bellow and Stuart Dybek, have found inspiration here, and Chicago has beckoned to an extraordinary range of peoples—German, Irish, Greek, Swedish, Chinese, Arab, Korean and East African, among many, many others. For each, food is a powerful vessel of shared traditions, a direct pipeline into the soul of a community. Choosing just a few to sample is an exercise in random discovery.

  • Butchers trimming pork bellies for bacon at Swift meat packing Packington Plant -1930

  • Earth’s Atmosphere May Have Alien Origin | Wired Science | Wired.com – krypton and xenon now present in the air — and many other atmospheric components as well — may be remnants of gas clouds swept up by the newly forming Earth. Or, they suggest, the gases may have been delivered to Earth by comets, in which the proportions of light isotopes for xenon and krypton are relatively higher.

Written by swanksalot

December 13th, 2009 at 12:00 am

Reading Around on December 6th through December 7th

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A few interesting links collected December 6th through December 7th:

  • “Do I have the right to refuse this search?” | Homeland Security Watch – TSA Terrorism Theater is a Joke, and not the 911 kind1 “Within the last few months, I have been singled out for “additional screening” roughly half the time I step into an airport security line. On Friday, October 9, as I stepped out of the full-body scanning device at BWI, I decided I needed more information to identify why it is that I have become such an appealing candidate for secondary screening.

    Little did I know this would be only the first of many questions I now have regarding my airport experiences.

    Over these last few months, I have grown increasingly frustrated with what I view as an unjustifiable intrusion on my privacy. It was not so much the search (then) as it was the embarrassment of being singled out, effectively being told “You are different,” but getting no explanation as to why.”

  • Mark the Spot: Tell AT&T where the iPhone sucks – Well now there is an electronic version of that crosswalk button for me to push whenever my signal degrades. This app, free in the App Store lets you pinpoint your location when the call was dropped. Expect a good constellation of points around my house
  • Oxford American – The Southern Magazine of Good Writing :: Ode to a Pecan Pie – The pecan pie has been on the Brigtsen’s menu for all twenty-three years of the restaurant’s history. It is evidence of Brigtsen’s broader philosophy.

    “I wanted it to be just that: a classic Southern dessert. I am not out to change the world with my food. I am not out to reinvent the wheel. I’m only here to make people happy. And whatever it takes to do that is my goal. I also believe that just because something is one hundred years old or twenty-three years old doesn’t mean it isn’t good anymore.”

Footnotes:
  1. or the 9/11 kind []

Written by swanksalot

December 7th, 2009 at 8:00 pm

NSA Wiretaps Combined with Credit Card Records of U.S. Citizens

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My paranoid self wonders if this is why the TSA always opens my suitcase every time I travel, and why I used to always get marked for special searches of my person and luggage (up until recently). Maybe, maybe not, but of course, I’ll never know.

Data Dump

NSA whistleblower Russell Tice was back on Keith Olbermann’s MSNBC program Thursday evening to expand on his Wednesday revelations that the National Security Agency spied on individual U.S. journalists, entire U.S. news agencies as well as “tens of thousands” of other Americans.

Tice said on Wednesday that the NSA had vacuumed in all domestic communications of Americans, including, faxes, phone calls and network traffic.
Today Tice said that the spy agency also combined information from phone wiretaps with data that was mined from credit card and other financial records. He said information of tens of thousands of U.S. citizens is now in digital databases warehoused at the NSA.

“This [information] could sit there for ten years and then potentially it marries up with something else and ten years from now they get put on a no-fly list and they, of course, won’t have a clue why,” Tice said.

In most cases, the person would have no discernible link to terrorist organizations that would justify the initial data mining or their inclusion in the database.

[From NSA Whistleblower: Wiretaps Were Combined with Credit Card Records of U.S. Citizens | Threat Level from Wired.com]

The NSA started large – accumulating as much information from as wide a source as they could get. Theoretically, once their database was seeded, they culled out non-terrorists, but I’m skeptical. The data is still being held, waiting for some future reason to utilize it.

“This is garnered from algorithms that have been put together to try to just dream-up scenarios that might be information that is associated with how a terrorist could operate,” Tice said. “And once that information gets to the NSA, and they start to put it through the filters there . . . and they start looking for word-recognition, if someone just talked about the daily news and mentioned something about the Middle East they could easily be brought to the forefront of having that little flag put by their name that says ‘potential terrorist’.”

Written by swanksalot

January 26th, 2009 at 8:51 am

Waiting for Baggage -TRI-X 400

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Waiting for Baggage -TRI-X 400, originally uploaded by swanksalot.

O’Hare.

The dude stormed off cursing when his bag turned up lost.

Our luggage was delayed too. At first, the American Airline agent said our bag was on the flight that left immediately after ours, and thus our miscreant bag would arrive in a few moments. After filling out some paperwork, decided to wait the few moments.

In actuality, the baggage carousel was just frozen and inoperable. They fixed it, and the last suitcase was the first one out of the door.

Might have been due to the TSA inspecting it (there was one of those “Notice of Baggage Inspection” notes in both of my suitcases – the suitcase with my clothes, and the delayed suitcase with mostly all business related papers).

This angry man in the photo didn’t wait for his bag though, just stormed off cursing at the incompetence of American Airlines.

Written by swanksalot

January 18th, 2009 at 8:14 am

Posted in Photography

Tagged with , ,

TSA batting average pretty low

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The Transportation Security Administration batting average is pretty low, and of the tiny number of people arrested by the TSA, how many are for actual terror related activities? The number of arrests is even lower when you filter out drug-related crimes, penis-bumb related jokes, immigration issues, and whatever other petty offense sets off the wrath of TSA officials.

Had Enough for a Long Time

Fewer than 1% of airline passengers singled out at airports for suspicious behavior are arrested, Transportation Security Administration figures show, raising complaints that too many innocent people are stopped.
A TSA program launched in early 2006 that looks for terrorists using a controversial surveillance method has led to more than 160,000 people in airports receiving scrutiny, such as a pat-down search or a brief interview. That has resulted in 1,266 arrests, often on charges of carrying drugs or fake IDs, the TSA said.

The TSA program trains screeners to become “behavior detection officers” who patrol terminals and checkpoints looking for travelers who act oddly or appear to answer questions suspiciously.

Critics say the number of arrests is small and indicates the program is flawed.

“That’s an awful lot of people being pulled aside and inconvenienced,” said Carnegie Mellon scientist Stephen Fienberg, who studied the TSA program and other counterterrorism efforts. “I think it’s a sham. We have no evidence it works.”

[From TSA’s ‘behavior detection’ leads to few arrests – USATODAY.com]

I wonder if Droopy Dog Lieberman in his continued1 role as chair-loser of the Homeland Security committee is responsible for TSA oversight? I wouldn’t be surprised.

Footnotes:
  1. inexplicably continued, I might add. I can see the logic of keeping Lieberman in the Democratic caucus, but head of the Homeland Security committee? Really? With his piss-poor performance when war profiteers like Haliburton and Blackwater thumbed their noses at taxpayers? Not good. []

Written by Seth Anderson

November 18th, 2008 at 7:48 pm

Posted in government

Tagged with , ,