Observations and inanities by a second-shift assistant supervisor in the Puppy-Grinding division of the Evil Atheist Conspiracy® (our motto: "Sure it's cruel, but think of the jobs!"), your host, Brent Rasmussen.
War On Terror
Ah, great - the military has a new techno gizmo to use in the Global War on Terror: a hand-held lie detector! From the article:
FORT JACKSON, S.C. - The Pentagon will issue hand-held lie detectors this month to U.S. Army soldiers in Afghanistan, pushing to the battlefront a century-old debate over the accuracy of the polygraph.
The Defense Department says the portable device isn't perfect, but is accurate enough to save American lives by screening local police officers, interpreters and allied forces for access to U.S. military bases, and by helping narrow the list of suspects after a roadside bombing. The device has already been tried in Iraq and is expected to be deployed there as well. “We're not promising perfection — we've been very careful in that,” said Donald Krapohl, special assistant to the director at the Defense Academy for Credibility Assessment, the midwife for the new device. “What we are promising is that, if it's properly used, it will improve over what they are currently doing.”
Oh my, it's worse than I thought. All I can say is... ew!
And please boycott Nike.
Hello, I'm reeling with a lot of new ideas gathered from you people, and this is a rewrite of my first blog entry which basically sucked.
Here's one of the main reasons I came here.
My brain was altered by the Methodists' "dogmagicians" starting when I was almost 6 years old.
Before then, my agnostic dad kept religion out of my life and off my back, but my mother couldn't live with herself, let alone anyone else, so she split and I got moved into her parents' home and church.
Something has to give, when the people you love and trust tell you with a straight face that a guy was killed and then a few days later, he woke up and walked out of the tomb and flew up to heaven where he's been hanging out ever since, waiting for the big day.
So what exactly is it that gives?
Kids in the cult I was forced into get the dogma drill around 5 or 6, by which time they've begun to feel good about their ability to figure things out for themselves.
James Hoyne, 14, has a feeding tube in his stomach and carries a back-up in a sealed clear plastic bag. Hoyne said two weeks ago a TSA officer insisted on opening the sterile equipment, contaminating his back-up feeding up tube which he later needed.
"I said 'Please don't open it' and she said 'I have to open it whether you like it or not. If I can't open it, I can't let you on the plane,'" Hoyne said of his conversation with the TSA screener.
TSA officials apologized to James and said they're looking into the incident to see what corrective steps need to be taken.
I'm a big fan of the TV series Foyle's War, with its excellent acting and attention to historical details. It provides a brilliant insight into what it must have been like in the United Kingdom during World War II, and shows both the bravery and the cowardice of a population under real threat from a superior enemy. In particular, those episodes set early in the war (during the Battle of Britain) show how the possibility of invasion by Nazi Germany pushed people to do both inspiring and dispiriting things, but mostly how the entire population just 'got on with it', coping with the threat and their fears pretty damned well.
Which is why when I read things like this, I just cringe:
Sure you do. And now you can post those comments on the TSA's own blog: Evolution of Security - with the motto "Terrorists Evolve. Threats Evolve. Security Must Stay Ahead. You Play A Part."
Well, at least some part of our government still believes in evolution.
So, what's the deal with this blog? From the 'about':
This blog is sponsored by the Transportation Security Administration to facilitate an ongoing dialogue on innovations in security, technology and the checkpoint screening process.
They promise that they'll allow any comments that aren't profane, abusive or political. Depending on how they want to define those terms, that would keep out about 97% of what I would want to post there. But maybe that's just me.
And of course keep in mind that anything you say may be used against you. (Well, OF COURSE I'm kidding about that. I'm sure the fine people at the TSA would never abuse their power in any way, shape or form, and have nothing but our best interests and happiness at heart. Seriously.)
Check it out, if you're brave enough.
Try to wrap your head around this:
Damn you, Osama bin Laden! Here's another rotten thing you've done to us: After 9/11, untold thousands of New Yorkers bought machines that detect traces of biological, chemical, and radiological weapons. But a lot of these machines didn't work right, and when they registered false alarms, the police had to spend millions of dollars chasing bad leads and throwing the public into a state of raw panic.
In what is no doubt more FUD about the War on Terror, an honor student at a Chicago-area high school was suspended and issued a citation for "reckless conduct" by the local police. Why?
For bringing his multi-tool containing a 2" blade to school:
CHICAGO, Illinois, Jan. 17, 2008 (NBC) -- Christopher Berger is an honor student at Grayslake Central High School.
He's also a choir singer, as well as a former football player who spends half the day training to be a firefighter.
"I've never even had a detention," Berger said.
His exemplary record now includes something new: A police ticket for reckless conduct given last week after school officials discovered a multi-tool flashlight in a jacket he left in the cafeteria. The tools include a 2-inch blade, screwdriver, pliers and other gadgets prohibited under school policy.
Let's start with a rhetorical question. Why don't we ever hear about Christian Terrorism on the news? Yes, I already know the answer but I would love to hear what everyone else thinks.
What I am referring to is a number of abortion clinic attacks in Albuquerque last month.
Two attacks occurred early Tuesday at two buildings belonging to Planned Parenthood of New Mexico, according to Albuquerque police and fire officials. An arson fire damaged a surgery center the organization uses for abortions, and the windows of a Planned Parenthood family planning clinic 12 blocks away were smashed, the officials said.
The attacks came just weeks after the Albuquerque clinic run by a nationally known abortion provider, Dr. Curtis Boyd, was destroyed by arsonists on Dec. 6.
Intrusive governmental surveillance is a staple of Science Fiction, and was part of the horror of Communism during the Cold War. Just about every spy movie set behind the Iron Curtain showed it, and of course the fictional world of George Orwell's 1984 was predicated on a complete lack of privacy.
We do not live in a totalitarian society. I was behind the Iron Curtain during the 1970s for a brief period, and saw what it was like first hand. And say what you will, 1984 did not become a reality.
But we are living in an "endemic surveillance society". And it is as bad here in the US as it is in China and Russia. That is the conclusion of Privacy International's 2007 International Privacy Ranking. From the report:
That's the description applied to most of the Security Theater (Bruce Schneier's excellent term) nonsense at our airports by a commercial airline pilot writing at the NYT Blog Jet Lagged. From the piece by Patrick Smith titled "The Airport Security Follies", in which he discusses the fact that current security procedures are nothing but a sham:
No matter that a deadly sharp can be fashioned from virtually anything found on a plane, be it a broken wine bottle or a snapped-off length of plastic, we are content wasting billions of taxpayer dollars and untold hours of labor in a delusional attempt to thwart an attack that has already happened, asked to queue for absurd lengths of time, subject to embarrassing pat-downs and loss of our belongings.
Here's what happened:
The water fills the hole in the saran wrap so that there is either water or vaccum in your mouth. The water pours into your sinuses and throat. You struggle to expel water periodically by building enough pressure in your lungs. With the saran wrap though each time I expelled water, I was able to draw in less air. Finally the lungs can no longer expel water and you begin to draw it up into your respiratory tract.
It seems that there is a point that is hardwired in us. When we draw water into our respiratory tract to this point we are no longer in control. All hell breaks loose. Instinct tells us we are dying.
I have never been more panicked in my whole life. Once your lungs are empty and collapsed and they start to draw fluid it is simply all over. You [b]know[b] you are dead and it's too late. Involuntary and total panic.
On Monday nights for the last couple of months I've been taking a beer brewing class. That part has been going well. This past Monday we had an interesting discussion about the United States policies surrounding torture. Out of 6 people I was the only one who flatly denounced the practice.
My reasons for denouncing the practice are mainly practical. If the United States uses torture or condones others using torture we can't be outraged when it's done to our citizens and military personnel. We also can't wholly rely on the information gained because the person being tortured will say anything you want them to in order to stop being tortured. You also have to wonder where the torture train stops...If it's OK to torture "terrorists" will it someday be OK to torture criminals? Will we be outraged if a possible criminal suspected of kidnapping is tortured in order to recover a missing child?
The responses I got in class weren't, in my opinion, morally sufficient. What I heard most was, "Well, 'they' are cutting the heads off of our soldiers". I don't follow the logic and if that logic were applied more widely a whole range of behaviors becomes possible based merely on the fact that other people are doing worse things.
What do you think?
Man, you can't make this shit up:
I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that "jihadism" is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, "…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration."
Romney, whose Mormon faith has become the subject of heated debate in Republican caucuses, wants America to be blind to his religious beliefs and judge him on merit instead. Yet he seems to accept excluding Muslims because of their religion, claiming they're too much of a minority for a post in high-level policymaking.
I notice that I've been writing a fair amount on civil liberties and the encroachment on them by the government thanks to the "War on Terror". I'm not really that obsessed with this stuff, but I just keep stumbling across things which should make anyone concerned.
The latest is an item I saw on Yahoo! this morning, from the AP:
WASHINGTON - Firefighters in major cities are being trained to take on a new role as lookouts for terrorism, raising concerns of eroding their standing as American icons and infringing on people's privacy.
Unlike police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel don't need warrants to access hundreds of thousands of homes and buildings each year, putting them in a position to spot behavior that could indicate terrorist activity or planning.
"Is that a tracking device in your pocket, or are you just happy to let the Feds know where you are?"Submitted by Jim Downey on November 23, 2007 - 9:27am.
I'm always surprised when people *don't* know the limitations and liabilities of the technology they take for granted. Take for example this Washington Post story about cellphone tracking:
Cellphone Tracking Powers on Request
Secret Warrants Granted Without Probable Cause
Federal officials are routinely asking courts to order cellphone companies to furnish real-time tracking data so they can pinpoint the whereabouts of drug traffickers, fugitives and other criminal suspects, according to judges and industry lawyers.
In some cases, judges have granted the requests without requiring the government to demonstrate that there is probable cause to believe that a crime is taking place or that the inquiry will yield evidence of a crime. Privacy advocates fear such a practice may expose average Americans to a new level of government scrutiny of their daily lives.
Gee, ya think?
Just in time for the holidays, comes this friendly bit of advice from your Big Brother:
As the busy holiday travel season approaches, TSA would like to help you get through the security checkpoint quickly and have a safe flight to your destination. Our Transportation Security Officers will be working around the clock to provide an efficient security process. We're asking you to become an active partner in your security experience by knowing the rules and carefully packing your carry-on bags.
Pack smart to get through faster. Keep luggage organized by layering items; this will increase visibility for the security officers. When approaching the checkpoint, be prepared.
Yes, be prepared. I recommend the little packets of KY Jelly, or the 'personal lubricant' of your choice, in order to comply with security regulations and reduce pain.
Over the weekend, news came out of yet another "Trust us, we're the government" debacle, this time in the form of the principal deputy director of national intelligence saying that Americans have to give up on the idea that they have any expectation of privacy. Rather, he said, we should simply trust the government to properly safeguard the communications and financial information that they gather about us. No, I am not making this up. From the NYT:
“Our job now is to engage in a productive debate, which focuses on privacy as a component of appropriate levels of security and public safety,” Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence, told attendees of the Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s symposium in Dallas.
* * *
If you haven't really been following the latest on the Telecom Immunity/Domestic Spying efforts by the Bush Administration, or even if you just were busy yesterday, you might want to check out what former AT&T technician and wiretapping whistle-blower Mark Klein has had to say on the matter. In particular, Senator Dodd has posted a 2 minute YouTube summary from Klein that'll give some idea of the scope of the surveillance. And in a discussion on NPR's All Things Considered yesterday, Klein goes into some detail about why he claims that AT&T was basically spying on each and every one of us who uses the internet to surf, post, or send email...before 9/11. It was, as he says in the YouTube summation, "Massively Unconstitutional".
Seriously - this is like something out of a comedy sketch:
Like Hansel and Gretel hoping to follow their bread crumbs out of the forest, the FBI sifted through customer data collected by San Francisco-area grocery stores in 2005 and 2006, hoping that sales records of Middle Eastern food would lead to Iranian terrorists.
The idea was that a spike in, say, falafel sales, combined with other data, would lead to Iranian secret agents in the south San Francisco-San Jose area.
Here's an even better idea for the FBI/NSA/Omega Sector: just plant RFID tags in the falafel mix. Then they can trace exactly who buys it, follow them around after they've consumed it, and even know what bathroom facilities they like to use. Man, you could set up monitoring equipment to record their bowel movements!