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November 26, 2010

TSA Extra Safety Measures: Symbolism Over Substance

The Opt Out movement during the Thanksgiving Day travel was a bust, proving that people will give up a little personal freedom to get through a line quicker. There were no long lines because of people being maliciously compliant with the new TSA security measures, although TSA did flinch a little and shut down many scanners in large airports.
This looks staged to me but even if it is legit, I guarantee you the father of these two young girls will change his sign when he sees them getting felt up in front of everyone else in line with their shirts up and panties showing. But hey, he feels good now and that's all that matters. 

Personally, I think this whole TSA pat-down policy is a charade, a ruse to perpetuate the perception that the government cares about us when we travel and that these TSA Agents are protecting us from terrorist attacks. I do not discount that having agents and takin goff our shoes and jackets is a good deterrent, but patting down travelers is nonsense. This is where the scaredy cats (and good old fashioned fear mongers) will scream "But 9/11!! 9/11!!" in hopes that Jedi Mind Trick will continue to work on the weak minded. 

I have an issue with the TSA procedures because they just don't make sense regardless of the arguments by TSA or anyone else. 

Premise: Traditional metal detectors are necessary because they will find weapons and bombs made out of metal.
TSA Argument: The terrorists might try to sneak a weapon or bomb not made of metal. Traditional machines will not find these bombs or weapons.
Rebuttal: Use the chemical detection machines to find the bombs.
TSA "Yeah, but" response: Those traditional machines will not find a weapon shoved up someone's ass.
Logical retort: Will the new TSA X-Ray machines find a weapon or bomb shoved up someone's ass?
TSA Answer: No, they only X-Ray the surface of the skin.
Logical conclusion: It would be more effective for a terrorist to buy a bottle of Jack Daniel's at a Duty Free shop and bust it over an airline attendant's head and then set it on fire than to try to smuggle a bomb or a box cutter onto an airplane. It would also make sense for a terrorist to smuggle weapons/bombs in their asses because body cavity searches are not part of the screening and the machines won't pick them up. Prisoners smuggle stuff in their asses all the time, why wouldn't a terrorist.

Unsettling reality #1: Not one terrorist attempt been foiled at a TSA security checkpoint line.

CIA, FBI, Customs, Air Marshalls and NSA get the terrorists. Not TSA.

Even if you get to the checkpoint and call bullshit on all this TSA tomfoolery you cannot leave and take a train to Grandma's house. Evidently, when you purchase your ticket you give up your right to alternative transportation at must succumb to TSA procedures- or pay an $11,000 fine. 

According to a WorkTrends survey I fall into the Heavy Traveler category with 40-60% travel throughout the year. These new X-Ray machines are not tested to the same standard that medical x-ray equipment is tested. What is my risk? Celebrity pilot Chelsea Sullenburger has made the same complaint and is requesting that airline pilots be exempt from not only additional screening but screening altogether. But if pilots can bypass the extra measures then why not flight attendants since they fly just as much as the pilots? 

Here is a picture of the new x-ray technology (that has not been fully tested) at the Phoenix International Airport. Doesn't leave much to the imagination, does it? 

Unsettling reality #2: What is preventing a terrorist from becoming a pilot?

All the terrorist pilot has to do is get to the cockpit, get the gun that is inside, shoot the other pilot and thank Allah for the United States' crippling politically correctness and purely reactive response to terrorism.

I also don't fully buy the argument that this is making us safer. These illusionary checks only make people feel safer, and it is only the people who aren't getting the extra screening/groping who feel safer. How safe do you think the father of the boy who was forced to have a partial strip search in front of everyone felt?

Here is an interesting read by Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller comedy act. He went through the additional groping by a TSA agent and made a stink about. He even had a local policeman show up. Penn's argument was not an extreme request- he didn't argue the unconstitutionality of the search- he wanted to be asked permission before being groped. He might pursue legal action against the TSA agent for assault. I guess if you have a lot of disposable income you can afford to take up that fight. Most of us do not and cannot.

So far, the best practice TSA and Homeland Security has adopted that actually does something is the locked cockpit doors and the handgun present in the cockpit. Everything else is smoke and mirrors. In fact, the United States should adopt airline security checkpoint procedures from a country that has been dealing with it for more than 50 years- Israel
"Israelis, unlike Canadians and Americans, don't take s--- from anybody. When the security agency in Israel (the ISA) started to tighten security and we had to wait in line for — not for hours — but 30 or 40 minutes, all hell broke loose here. We said, 'We're not going to do this. You're going to find a way that will take care of security without touching the efficiency of the airport."
It doesn't take hours to get through security in Israel, only 30-40 minutes. Tops. IN fact, the first layer of security occurs at the entrnce to the airport itself- from the street! Yes, cars are stopped and the driver and passengers are asked only 2 questions- How are you and why are you here? Based on the reaction to these 2 seemingly innocent questions the procedure may go one of two ways: You are allowed to pass to the 2nd and 3rd levels of security or, you are pulled over and given the third degree, much like the secondary search in Tijuana. Oh, I forgot to mention, all security agents are trained  to look at the behaviors of the people.

Officers are looking for nervousness or other signs of "distress" — behavioural profiling. Sela rejects the argument that profiling is discriminatory.
"The word 'profiling' is a political invention by people who don't want to do security," he said. "To us, it doesn't matter if he's black, white, young or old. It's just his behaviour. So what kind of privacy am I really stepping on when I'm doing this?"

 Good question, however a huge storm of protesting will occur the second you try to initiate profiling in the United States. That's why the terrorists love to try and sneak through our airports- terrorists, little old ladies, children and the handicapped are all treated the same. Actually, people who fit th e profile of a terrorist- 18to30 year old male of Middle Eastern decent- are not profiled because they can scream human rights violations. So, TSA continues to screen grandma because it will be less of a hassle.

I know what comes next: "Yeah, but the underwear bomber didn't' fit that profile so profiling wouldn't have caught him. Ha!" True, friend of terrorists and hater of America, but neither would the new x-ray  or chemical detection machines. Properly trained agents, information sharing between CIA, FBI, HLS, Customs, NSA et al and profiling would have probably caught him, especially with a name like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Yeah, yeah, I know what comes next, "Racist! You're a racist!!"

No, it isn't racism any more than giving blacks an extra thorough medical examination since they seem to be more susceptible to sickle cell anemia than other races. White skinned people are more likely to get skin cancer than other races. Is it wrong for a black doctor to give a more thorough exam to their white patients? Of course not, just as it is not sexist for doctors to recommend women over 40 to get routine breast exams and not their male patients. I would even take it one step further and suggest that if a KKK revolution started that the police and Feds concentrate of fat white guys and not Asians. Again, this is not racism- it is risk assessment.

But I stress that this profiling can only be successful with properly trained agents, like the agents used in Israeli airports and not like the sloppy TSA agents who caused a man's urostomy bag to leak all over the man's clothes- and then fly on an airplane smelling like Kevin Federline. There is no humility or respect in that. The sadder part of this story is that TSA agents do not have the training to spot a real terrorist.

Until they do, get to the airports early and expect to see grandma and little Johnny continue to receive pat downs while the Abdulmutallab's continue to skate around our security. 

November 14, 2010

Life in a Jar

I recently received an email chain from my Grandfather concerning a woman named Irena Sendler who died in May of 2008. She was a Polish Catholic woman who saved more than 2500 children from the Nazi death camps during WWII. In fact, Irena went door to door and talked women into giving up their infants because she knew the impending doom that awaited them. She is known as the Polish Oskar Schindler. The email is true and Irena's story can be found on the website Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project. The jar will become clear after reading the email that has been circulating since June 2008.

There recently was a death of a 98 year-old lady named Irena. During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist. 
She had an 'ulterior motive'. 
She knew what the Nazi's plans were for the Jews (being German). Irena smuggled infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried and she carried in the back of her truck a burlap sack, (for larger kids). 
She also had a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto. The soldiers of course wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the kids/infants noises. During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants. She was caught, and the Nazi's broke both her legs, arms and beat her severely. 
Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out and kept them in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her back yard. After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived it and reunited the family. Most had been gassed.  Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted. 
In 2007 Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize. She was not selected.
Al Gore won --- for a slide show on Global Warming.

 In all fairness, the names of NPP nominees are kept secret for 50 years. However, there must have been some buzz about her nomination becuase the International Federation of Social Workers issued a statement after the award was given to Algore. 


November 13, 2010

Unknown object flying near L.A.

A mysterious vapor trail was caught on tape Monday night by a CBS helicopter crew. This contrail was about 35 miles off the coast of Los Angeles and it has already dropped off the radar- no pun intended. Tuesday morning the FAA said there were no planes in the area. Military officials were stumped. Correction: they told us they did not know what it was, but that it looked like it came from the water. Take a look at this shot-

Really? The Pentagon doesn't know what this is? How about they know what it is but they don't know who shot it? I rode submarines for 20 years and I have seen many shots of submarine launched missiles- even from my own boat. This contrail looks very familiar to me. In fact, "military officials" told Fox News that they are confident the missile shot was not from a foreign military. How conveeeeeeeenient....

I am not a conspiracy theorist by any stretch but sometimes it is fun to dabble in the "What ifs". Hell, I have a zombie invasion action plan already in place just in case things go really bad. But let's take a look at concurrent world events, our economy and this missile shot in context and have some fun.

Here is a video produced by the Citizens Against Government Waste showing a futuristic look at a Chinese classroom where the professor is recounting great civilizations that all fell because fiscal irresponsibility. There is a bit of grand standing but this scenario is dangerously close to reality. There are subtitles and I would invite you to replay the video a second time but watch the video and not read them.

I like this segment because it points a bony finger at all administrations of this country since I have been alive- but the Obama administration is especially alarming for 2 reasons: Obama actually believes he can tax us into prosperity and people support him in this endeavorer. But this is a post for a different time.

Many countries have loaned the United States billions upon billions of dollars so that we can fund wars, defunct stimulus programs (Cash for Clunkers),and (sort of) pay grandma's pharmacy bill, etc.  
The total [public] debt has increased over $500 billion each year since fiscal year (FY) 2003, with increases of $1 trillion in FY2008, $1.9 trillion in FY2009, and $1.7 trillion in FY2010.[6]
Interesting that our debt has almost quadrupled since this administration took over. Not the change I was hoping for, and surprisingly people 1) support this criminal behavior that will destroy this county or, 2) don't care. I truly believe some people would rather the United States suffer a Red Dawn fate than to admit their guy sucks. Red Dawn- yes, I went there. Again, I do not want to t (too) sidetracked away from the business at hand.

So, China owns a buttload of our debt. in fact, our national debt is so large that we pay $450 billion a year just in interest. How would you like to have that credit card balance? Just the interest of our national debt increases our taxes by 40%. Can you imagine if we could get a handle on our debt and what that would do to our economy? It would lower taxes! Oh, wait, this administration is obscenely increasing our debt. Want to see something scary- US Debt Clock

But how long will China continue to bail out our auto and banking industries, or help this administration pay back all it's debt to the people who helped Obama win the 2008 election? It's like asking your parents to continually pay off your credit card bills while not doing anything to reduce the balance- in fact, you are making it worse by treating your friends to Hooter's every night and buying them designer clothes. Billary was in China last month begging the government to keep paying of four credit card bills.
To boost the economy, the U.S has to incur more debt, she said, shortly before departing for Washington. "It would not be in China's interest if we were unable to get our economy moving," Clinton said. "So by continuing to support American Treasury instruments, the Chinese are recognizing our interconnection. We are truly going to rise or fall together. We are in the same boat and, thankfully, we are rowing in the same direction.
 Reread the first sentence- We have to incur more debt to be prosperous! Is anyone even listening to this horse shit? Do people even care? Name one country that taxed itself into the Age of Aquarious and I'll kiss your ass on public television. Ok, I promise I am going somewhere with this. Remember the incident last year with a US Navy surveillance vessel (in international waters (supposedly)) being harassed by the Chinese? Tensions already suck between our countries and China has us by the balls- they know it and Obama knows it. Just look at this picture:

 In fact the United States backed down from China last month over a currency dispute:
Washington and the European Union accuse China -- set to become the world's second-largest economy after the United States this year -- of keeping the yuan artificially low to boost exports, undermining jobs and competitiveness in Western economies.
Wow, backing down to a foreign country (and probably apologizing) isn't like this administration at all.

The United States has declared that it will inject $600 billion into our debt to at least try and get an handle on the train wreck. That doesn't sit well with China as it will affect their stake in our debt. On his recent Asia tour, Obama skipped China and, among other things-
The president fell short in some of his goals on the trip. He failed to secure an agreement on concrete steps to rebalance the global economy at two-day summit of the Group of 20 nations in Seoul, and had to extend talks on securing a South Korean trade deal central to his goal of boosting U.S. exports.
That's funny. Obama went to lecture these countries on fiscal spending and tried to get them to listen to his plan on stimulating the world economy. That's like listening to the crazy homeless person yelling on the corner about how to invest your money.

Why all this talk about China, you ask? Let's recap:

  1. We owe them a buttload of money.
  2. We are screwing with their investments by trying to pay off our debt.
  3. They have us by the balls.
  4. Obama skipped China on his Asian tour.
  5. They have nuclear powered submarines.
Yes, #5 has everything to do with the unknown missile shot off the coast of L.A., especially in context with everything else. I think it was a clear message to Obama from the Chinese government to cut the crap. Remember, I am jut having fun.

China only has a few submarines that are capable of launching missiles and you can bet that we keep close tabs on their submarine movements via satellite and all that Hunt For Red October stuff. But what if we lost track of one or, better yet, the Chinese bought a quieter submarine from Russia? Russia is a corrupt mafia-run country that can't feed its own people. Their military might is sinking at the pier and what better way to feed the upper middle class than to sell off some of that old school technology to the highest bidder?

Of course the Pentagon is going to say this unknown contrail is not a threat to the United States. If they were to come out and say that it was a missile fired from a Chinese submarine as a message for the U.S. to leave China alone then all Asians would be beaten up and probably killed on the streets. Here is what I propose to any high ranking military personnel who are reading this blog- take some advice from Jim Malone, the mentor who instructed Elliott Ness how to take down Al Capone:
They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way! And that’s how you get Capone. Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that?

They shoot a missile near one of the United States' most populated cities, you send that submarine to the bottom of the ocean. They play around with the value of their currency to deflate ours, you pay them off with everything we have and drive their economy back to the stone age. Of course, this will never happen but I"m just having fun.