Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Noms de Plume

Since my default operational mode is collaborative/conciliatory, it sometimes causes angst when I confront someone, even in an ironic or humorous way. Such thoughts have been rattling around my brain since my 90 Days post where I made some sidebar comments regarding cartoon posters. 

Imagine my delight then in reading on Huffington Post about the legitimate uses of pseudonyms.

Items on the full list border on NSFW, but the first three justifications for pseudonymous posting will give you a flavor:
  • You are a convicted felon
  • You have Mommy issues
  • You have multiple personalities
Please read the rather informative explanations beneath the captions before responding. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sister Mary Elephant

I suppose Sister Mary refused to submit to the full body scan.

 Someone should let Sister Mary know she has this to look forward to in about 15 seconds:

Unreasonable Search and Seizure

I applaud Representative John Boehner for his recent stand in favor of our Constitution's Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search. Let us hope he works to extend the right to the rest of the United States' citizenry.

See Below:
November 19, 2010
Incoming Speaker Takes Commercial Flight, but Skips the Pat Down

WASHINGTON — Representative John A. Boehner, the soon-to-be Republican speaker, pledged recently that he would fly commercial airlines back home to Ohio, passing up the military plane used by the current speaker, Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat. But that does not mean he will endure the hassles of ordinary passengers, including pat downs and other new security screenings.

As he left Washington on Friday, Mr. Boehner headed across the Potomac River to Ronald Reagan National Airport, which was bustling with afternoon travelers. There was no waiting for Mr. Boehner, who was escorted around the identification-checking agents, the metal detectors and the body scanners, and whisked directly to the gate.

The Republican leader, who will become the second person in line to assume the presidency after the new Congress convenes in January, took great pride after the midterm elections in declaring his man-of-the-people plans to travel home as other Americans do. In a time of economic difficulty, it was a not-so-subtle dig at Ms. Pelosi, who has access to a military jet large enough to avoid refueling for her flights home to San Francisco.

But he is not giving up all the perquisites of power.

Mr. Boehner, who was wearing a casual yellow sweater and tan slacks, carried his own bag and smiled pleasantly at passengers who were leaving the security checkpoint inside the airport terminal on Friday. Among the travelers not invited to bypass the security line was Representative Allen Boyd, Democrat of Florida, who lost his re-election bid two weeks ago.

Only Congressional leaders or members of Congress with armed security details are allowed to go around security. The same privilege is afforded to governors and cabinet members if they are escorted by agents or law enforcement officers.

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner, said the Republican leader had neither requested nor received special treatment at the airport security line.

“The appropriate security procedures for all Congressional leaders, including Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid, are determined by the Capitol Police working with the Transportation Security Administration,” Mr. Steel said in a statement, referring to Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader.

The flying pattern of Mr. Boehner emerged as the new screenings at airports across the country, particularly pat downs by male and female agents, have elevated discussions about the inconveniences of flying. The Department of Homeland Security has asked passengers for patience as the new procedures are put into place, but pilots’ groups and civil liberties organizations have filed lawsuits asserting that the screening protocols violate Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

100 Body Scans From Security Checkpoint Leaked (PICTURES)

In another stunning example of why TSA Security Checkpoints are an invasion of privacy, Gizmodo obtained through a Freedom of Information request the scans and pictures of people passing through a Florida security checkpoint.

100 Body Scans From Security Checkpoint Leaked (PICTURES): "Earlier this year, the U.S. Marshals Service admitted that--despite promises from federal agencies that such images could and would not be stored--some 35,000 images from a scanner at a security checkpoint at a Florida courthouse had been saved.

One hundred of those body scan images have been leaked by Gizmodo, which obtained them through the Freedom of Information Act. They were taken with using millimeter wave scanners manufactured by Brijot Imaging Systems, Inc, which produce images that resemble 'blurry negatives' with a 'humanoid form,' according to TSA spokesperson Sari Koshetz.

Gizmodo writes,

Yet the leaking of these photographs demonstrates the security limitations of not just this particular machine, but millimeter wave and x-ray backscatter body scanners operated by federal employees in our courthouses and by TSA officers in airports across the country. That we can see these images today almost guarantees that others will be seeing similar images in the future. If you're lucky, it might even be a picture of you or your family.

Body scanners at security checkpoints have become a controversial issue. The Transportation Security Administration has come under fire for employing what many consider to be invasive security screening procedures in the form of pat-downs and scanners.

The TSA said in a 2008 blog post, 'While we have said this many times, it bears repeating, TSA will not keep, store or transmit images. Once deleted, they are gone forever.'

See two of the body scan images obtained from the Florida courthouse's scanner below. The faces of the individuals shown in the photographs have been obscured.

TSA Checkpoint Ahead Sign

TSA Checkpoint Ahead Sign: "

Found on Boing Boing


Metropulse Chicago Launches

Metropulse Chicago Launches: "

2010_11_17_metropulse.jpg Metropulse Chicago, a joint effort of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and the Chicago Community Trust that serves as the lynch pin for their Regional Indicators Project, launched today. Metropulse intends to serve as an open source portal for media, government officials and concerned citizens interested in tracking the regional quality of life of the greater Chicago area.

We may be oversimplifying this, but think of Metropulse as a hyperlocal wiki for all the things that affect us in the area. From poverty to air quality; health care and community organizing; poverty to civil service, Metropulse has the potential to help everyone from the smallest of neighborhood non-profits to City Hall take a new approach to old problems. The site also will serve in the implementation of CMAP's GO TO 2040 Plan.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I have now endured the humiliation of having TSA agents talk to me like I am an idiot without fully explaining the gymnastics required to pass a scanner screening. They would rather have you fail four times, clucking and shaking their heads, than explain in clear, reasonable English once what is required. I am fed up with TSA and the ineffective security screenings they pretend to give. I said so on Nate Silver's blog. (http://bit.ly/aaSSV2)

I post an article I read on Israel's procedures. It capture perfectly why I am so frustrated with the US - we - including the government, most of all - are more interested in covering our butts than in making the skies safe.

You can find the original here (http://bit.ly/bQaxhf) but I paste it below.

The 'Israelification' of airports: High security, little bother
Published On Wed Dec 30 2009

Cathal Kelly Staff Reporter

While North America's airports groan under the weight of another sea-change in security protocols, one word keeps popping out of the mouths of experts: Israelification.

That is, how can we make our airports more like Israel's, which deal with far greater terror threat with far less inconvenience.

"It is mindboggling for us Israelis to look at what happens in North America, because we went through this 50 years ago," said Rafi Sela, the president of AR Challenges, a global transportation security consultancy. He's worked with the RCMP, the U.S. Navy Seals and airports around the world.

"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."

That, in a nutshell is "Israelification" - a system that protects life and limb without annoying you to death.

Fliers urged to opt out of airport security en masse

Despite facing dozens of potential threats each day, the security set-up at Israel's largest hub, Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport, has not been breached since 2002, when a passenger mistakenly carried a handgun onto a flight. How do they manage that?

"The first thing you do is to look at who is coming into your airport," said Sela.

The first layer of actual security that greets travellers at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport is a roadside check. All drivers are stopped and asked two questions: How are you? Where are you coming from?

"Two benign questions. The questions aren't important. The way people act when they answer them is," Sela said.

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?"

Once you've parked your car or gotten off your bus, you pass through the second and third security perimeters.

Armed guards outside the terminal are trained to observe passengers as they move toward the doors, again looking for odd behaviour. At Ben Gurion's half-dozen entrances, another layer of security are watching. At this point, some travellers will be randomly taken aside, and their person and their luggage run through a magnometer.

"This is to see that you don't have heavy metals on you or something that looks suspicious," said Sela.

You are now in the terminal. As you approach your airline check-in desk, a trained interviewer takes your passport and ticket. They ask a series of questions: Who packed your luggage? Has it left your side?

"The whole time, they are looking into your eyes — which is very embarrassing. But this is one of the ways they figure out if you are suspicious or not. It takes 20, 25 seconds," said Sela.

Lines are staggered. People are not allowed to bunch up into inviting targets for a bomber who has gotten this far.

At the check-in desk, your luggage is scanned immediately in a purpose-built area. Sela plays devil's advocate — what if you have escaped the attention of the first four layers of security, and now try to pass a bag with a bomb in it?

"I once put this question to Jacques Duchesneau (the former head of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority): say there is a bag with play-doh in it and two pens stuck in the play-doh. That is 'Bombs 101' to a screener. I asked Ducheneau, 'What would you do?' And he said, 'Evacuate the terminal.' And I said, 'Oh. My. God.'

"Take Pearson. Do you know how many people are in the terminal at all times? Many thousands. Let's say I'm (doing an evacuation) without panic — which will never happen. But let's say this is the case. How long will it take? Nobody thought about it. I said, 'Two days.'"

A screener at Ben-Gurion has a pair of better options.

First, the screening area is surrounded by contoured, blast-proof glass that can contain the detonation of up to 100 kilos of plastic explosive. Only the few dozen people within the screening area need be removed, and only to a point a few metres away.

Second, all the screening areas contain 'bomb boxes'. If a screener spots a suspect bag, he/she is trained to pick it up and place it in the box, which is blast proof. A bomb squad arrives shortly and wheels the box away for further investigation.

"This is a very small simple example of how we can simply stop a problem that would cripple one of your airports," Sela said.

Five security layers down: you now finally arrive at the only one which Ben-Gurion Airport shares with Pearson — the body and hand-luggage check.

"But here it is done completely, absolutely 180 degrees differently than it is done in North America," Sela said.

"First, it's fast — there's almost no line. That's because they're not looking for liquids, they're not looking at your shoes. They're not looking for everything they look for in North America. They just look at you," said Sela. "Even today with the heightened security in North America, they will check your items to death. But they will never look at you, at how you behave. They will never look into your eyes ... and that's how you figure out the bad guys from the good guys."

That's the process — six layers, four hard, two soft. The goal at Ben-Gurion is to move fliers from the parking lot to the airport lounge in a maximum of 25 minutes.

This doesn't begin to cover the off-site security net that failed so spectacularly in targeting would-be Flight 253 bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab — intelligence. In Israel, Sela said, a coordinated intelligence gathering operation produces a constantly evolving series of threat analyses and vulnerability studies.

"There is absolutely no intelligence and threat analysis done in Canada or the United States," Sela said. "Absolutely none."

But even without the intelligence, Sela maintains, Abdulmutallab would not have gotten past Ben Gurion Airport's behavioural profilers.

So. Eight years after 9/11, why are we still so reactive, so un-Israelified?

Working hard to dampen his outrage, Sela first blames our leaders, and then ourselves.

"We have a saying in Hebrew that it's much easier to look for a lost key under the light, than to look for the key where you actually lost it, because it's dark over there. That's exactly how (North American airport security officials) act," Sela said. "You can easily do what we do. You don't have to replace anything. You have to add just a little bit — technology, training. But you have to completely change the way you go about doing airport security. And that is something that the bureaucrats have a problem with. They are very well enclosed in their own concept."

And rather than fear, he suggests that outrage would be a far more powerful spur to provoking that change.

"Do you know why Israelis are so calm? We have brutal terror attacks on our civilians and still, life in Israel is pretty good. The reason is that people trust their defence forces, their police, their response teams and the security agencies. They know they're doing a good job. You can't say the same thing about Americans and Canadians. They don't trust anybody," Sela said. "But they say, 'So far, so good'. Then if something happens, all hell breaks loose and you've spent eight hours in an airport. Which is ridiculous. Not justifiable

"But, what can you do? Americans and Canadians are nice people and they will do anything because they were told to do so and because they don't know any different."