Wednesday, June 29, 2011

TSA Grows New Fangs

I took a break from blogging because I feared falling into an insanity rut -- remember, one definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" -- and it was starting to feel like I wrote the same anti-TSA rant over and over again. I snapped out of it long enough to write another column for the Guardian, this one sharing the unsurprising news that TSA searches are spreading out of airports into other forms of American mass transit via the agency's not-at-all-ominous-sounding VIPR program.

The TSA doesn't protect us from terrorism; now it's TSA terrorizing us. It's not "fear of al-Qaeda" that prevents me flying to visit friends or scenic attractions on the other side of the country; it's fear of being molested by a thug in blue latex gloves. And now, the apoligists' mantra "If you don't like it, don't fly," is replaced by "If you don't like it, don't fly, don't take a train or trolley, don't ride a bus, don't board a boat or ferry, and don't drive your own car. In fact, don't go anywhere; just stay home and be thankful you live in a free country."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

X-Ray Vision, Tee Hee Hee

Actual job posting from the Transportation Security Administration, which is looking to hire agents to fondle airline travelers at Boston's Logan International Airport:


About the Job


Logan International Airport Is Now Hiring

Transportation Security Officers

See yourself in a vital role for Homeland Security. Be part of a dynamic security team protecting airports and skies as you proudly secure your future.

[Dates, addresses and phone numbers for various hiring fairs listed]


Federal Benefits * Paid, ongoing training

X-ray vision, ha ha ha! Since fondling travelers at Logan is only part-time work that can't possibly pay enough to live on in a hyper-expensive city like Boston, maybe TSA hoped calling attention to the X-rated X-ray fringe benefits would offset that among the sort of people craven enough to consider working for TSA.

In other news, last Sunday the Texas-based site The Statesman ran a puff piece about a government surplus store, discussing the nifty profit the state makes (and the nifty bargains ordinary people can find!) at surplus stores selling items TSA confiscates from travelers. The article specifically talks about all the beautiful snow globes for sale, all confiscated because they contain too much potentially dangerous liquid.

A beaming girl's picture is encased in the snow globe, which is about the size of a grapefruit and rests atop an expensive-looking wooden base proclaiming, "Congratulations, graduate!"

Alas, the graduate never received this gift. It rests amid a sea of San Antonio snow globes — and a few globes from Denver, Chicago and Disney World — on the shelves of the Texas State Surplus Store at 6506 Bolm Road, off U.S. 183.

Because it's filled with liquid, you can't carry a snow globe onto an airplane. But some travelers haven't gotten the message, or maybe it slips their minds during their harried packing for summer vacation. Thus, rows and rows of snow globes sit at the surplus store, which gets its inventory not only from state surplus but also from items that were left behind or confiscated — "We say willfully surrendered," said cashier Roberta Siller — at airport security checkpoints in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth, Waco, El Paso and other small airports.

In the five years this store has been open, its plane-related inventory has soared because of heightened security, according to director James Barrington. The airport stuff takes up most of one small room at the store. In 2010, the state's general fund was enriched $300,000 by the storefront's sales.

It's never a good sign when the government actively profits from violating people's rights. And I would gladly bet my life's savings that the snow globes, confiscated on the grounds "They might be explosive or poisonous or something" are sold without first being tested to ensure their contents aren't explosive or poisonous or anything.

And there's similar tales, too: back when toiletry confiscations were first introduced, there were feel-good stories about TSA donating confiscated shampoo and soap and the like to homeless shelters. Then, as now, there's only two possible conclusion to draw from TSA's behavior:

Option one: they know damned well the stuff they confiscate on safety grounds is perfectly harmless, yet confiscate it anyway; or,

Option two: they honestly believe the stuff they confiscate might be dangerous, yet have no qualms about foisting potential poisons onto the homeless or bargain-shopping public.

I still haven't decided which option on TSA's part demonstrates the most contempt for the American public it allegedly serves.

(Dubious thanks to Lisa Simeone for letting me know about the job listing. I don't know why I even try affecting a good mood anymore.)

Bite Me, Spammers

I know I haven't updated this blog in awhile -- busy taking care of certain non-writing jobs -- but I still get email alerts whenever someone posts a comment on any thread and today I got several dozen visitors all with names like "Buydesignercraponline."

So, yes, I'll update this soon, I promise, but first I have to delete 150 spambot comments. Even that annoying type-in-this-code security system I've set up on the comment threads isn't working.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The "Daughter Test": Massive Fail

I'm in danger of developing a permanent forehead callus inspired by from near-constant facepalming ever since reading about Steven Levitt's ridiculously paternalistic "daughter test," which I discuss at the Guardian this week.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


Remember high school, sitting through Civil War history lessons and learning how Abraham Lincoln led the Confederated Army in glorious battle against Adolf Hitler to free the Jewish slaves out of Egypt? Sarah Palin does.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Anthony Weiner: The Stupidest Politician In America This Week

I have not been paying much attention to the WeinerTwit scandal -- the allegations that Anthony Weiner used Twitter to send a photo of his weiner to a disinterested college student -- until today, when he finally admitted that yes, he did indeed send it; it wasn't some nefarious right-wing hacker. And the only thing I have to say is: what a freaking idiot. When the likes of Newt Gingrich and John Edwards got caught up in sex scandals, at least they got to, y'know, actually have sex, and presumably enjoy an orgasm or two. What the hell did WeinerTwit hope to get out of this? Did he actually think the sight of his droopy middle-aged schlong would inspire an attractive young woman to drop out of college and move to the other side of the continent so she could enjoy proximity to it? Hell, did he actually think at all?
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