Friday, 26 November 2010

links for 2010-11-26 - TSA Edition, Ep. 5: The Em-Tyner Strikes Back

posted at 10:12 PM in links
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Thursday, 25 November 2010

links for 2010-11-25 - TSA Edition, Ep. 4: A New Grope

posted at 10:23 PM in links
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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

LEGO Star Wars: Bombad Bounty

Makes me laugh every time I watch it. My boys and I love it. (Make sure you choose the 720 HD version.)

Davis: “That’s funny.”
Samuel: “Again!” (And again, and again, and again, and again…)

posted at 10:33 PM in Star Wars , fun , video
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Ben Kenobi: Private Jedeye

Yeah, it’s been floating around the Interwebs for a while now, but it’s still great.


posted at 9:41 PM in Star Wars , fun , video
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Congressman Burgess responds on TSA’s new policies

Michael C. Burgess, the Congressional representative for our little sliver of Texas, has responded to the letter I sent him a week and a half ago expressing my displeasure with the TSA’s new imaging and groping “enhanced” pat-down policies. His response is below, in its entirety. I have added emphasis in the fourth paragraph not present in the original.

***

Dear Mr. Turner:

Thank you for contacting me to express your concern regarding the security policies of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). I appreciate hearing from you on this important matter.

As you are aware, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently purchased full body scanners that show the outline of the naked human body and allow TSA to detect high-density bomb-making materials. In response to a large number of complaints from both travelers and employees in the airline industry, DHS instituted a new policy that allows travelers to “opt out” of the digital image scanning. This “opt out” procedure allows for the traveler to step aside and receive a full-body pat-down to check for hidden substances or items on the persons. As a result, TSA and DHS implemented a new “pat-down” procedure that serves as an alternative procedure for those travelers who wish to refuse the full-body scan.

Over the past few weeks, I have received hundreds of phone calls from concerned constituents, and seen news reports of people who are outraged by TSA’s invasive full-body scans and “pat-down” procedures that are now used in the name of national security. After recently flying myself and witnessing how invasive these procedures are, as well as the potential for abuse, I am outraged that TSA chose to implement the new rules without consulting with Congress. TSA is charged with protecting our airplanes from the kind of terrorism we saw in the terror attacks on 9/11, but this should not result in an abuse of power and the exploitation of Americans.

Further disconcerting is the fact that Congress voted overwhelmingly to prohibit the TSA’s use of full-body scanners as a primary screening method. H.R. 2200, the Transportation Security Administration Authorization Act, contained an amendment to prohibit the TSA’s use of full-body scanners as a primary screening method. House Amendment 172 passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 310 to 118, but TSA has ignored this, and plans to deploy over 1,000 machines in use at airports across the country by the end of next year. Although this legislation is awaiting further action in the Senate, the sense of Congress is clear – these invasive methods are not the best use of TSA resources.

In light of our serious concerns regarding the agency’s use of invasive tactics, I joined several of my colleagues in Congress to request that the House Homeland Security Committee conduct a hearing on the new TSA procedures.

It is unfortunate terrorism from abroad has brought us to this point. Rest assured, I am committed to securing our nations’ airlines and preventing another terrorist attack, as well as to protecting your Constitutional rights. Representing an area with several major airports, I have tried to help protect, control, and monitor changes made for better security, without infringing on the very freedoms for which we are fighting. I will continue to support legislation that will strengthen our borders, protect our ports, and help prepare the nation in case of a terror attack.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. I appreciate having the opportunity to represent you in the U.S. House of Representatives. Please feel free to visit my website (www.house.gov/burgess) or contact me with any future concerns.

Sincerely,

Michael C. Burgess, M.D.
Member of Congress

posted at 3:05 PM in aviation , liberty , national security , politics , quote
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Sunday, 21 November 2010

links for 2010-11-21 - TSA Edition, Ep. 3: Revenge of the Screeners

posted at 10:03 PM in links
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Saturday, 20 November 2010

links for 2010-11-20 - TSA Edition, Ep. 2: Attack of the Backscatter

posted at 10:03 PM in links
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Thursday, 18 November 2010

links for 2010-11-18 - The TSA Edition

posted at 10:14 PM in links
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Monday, 15 November 2010

For writers, a good use for all that e-mail spam

A tip for fellow writers:

I use Michael Tsai’s outstanding SpamSieve on my Mac to control e-mail spam. Based on the training I give the program, it actively and automagically sorts spam into a designated folder, leaving my inbox pristine and filled only with the e-mail I want to receive.

Now, what to do with all that spam collecting in that aforementioned designated folder?

Most folks would simply delete it all, and too bad if something found its way there that shouldn’t be. Some folks, myself included, would give it a quick going-over, to make sure their spam-filtering software hadn’t flagged a false positive: a “good” e-mail inadvertently labeled “bad”.

And an enterprising fiction writer would tap this new-found wealth for character names.

I mean, where else are you going to discover “Abdul Travis”? What a great name for a fictional character! (When I first saw that one, it sounded like something one would read in a William Gibson novel.)

So I created a new text document in BBEdit, gave it the oh-so-original title of “character names.txt”, and starting dumping in names from my spam e-mails.

I’m not sure how many pieces of spam I went through, or how long I did this, but the current document has 456 different names in it. And by virtue of receiving upwards of 5,000-plus spam e-mails a week, I always have a ready source for more names if I need them.

So skip those fancy character-naming programs, fiction writers. You’ve got a wealth of names right there in your e-mail client.

posted at 9:40 PM in helping , writing
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Sunday, 14 November 2010

Too bad we don’t pay attention to history

“History by apprising [citizens] of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views.” —Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 14, 1781

posted at 10:55 PM in liberty , quote
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A boarding pass is not probable cause

Below is the letter I sent to our Congressional representative, Michael C. Burgess. I totally ripped it off from my friend Tom, tweaking it slightly. You are welcome to copy either of ours if you feel similarly about the TSA’s new search policies.

* * *

To The Honorable Michael C. Burgess

As Congress comes back into session, I encourage you to use your position on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to change the policy enacted concerning the Transportation Safety Administration’s use of millimeter wave technology in the screening of passengers. These devices represent an unnecessary invasion of privacy as part of security procedures, and aren’t making anyone safer.

While I appreciate the need to try to make airports more secure, these scanners show images of a patron’s naked body to the TSA in order to do it. Worse, if you decide to opt out of the scanners for personal privacy reasons, or for concern over radiation exposure, you’re subject to a very intimate patdown that allows the TSA to touch the genital regions of a patron, out of nothing short of retaliation.

This is patently unacceptable. The choices you have to make if you take your family traveling is that you can have their genitals leered at by TSA officers (one such example of bad behavior includes a pilot’s 18 year old daughter: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/travel-safety-security/1147497-tso-saying-heads-up-got-cutie-you.html ) or you can have them fondled. Or you can refuse both, and, even if volunteering to go through the normal metal detector, be escorted from the airport: http://johnnyedge.blogspot.com/2010/11/these-events-took-place-roughly-between.html.

Which would you choose?

The fourth amendment to the United States Constitution, which you have sworn to uphold and defend against powers foreign and domestic, says that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

A boarding pass is not probable cause to have my person searched in such a fashion.

This is a bridge too far. A functioning travel network is crucial to a free society, and to have to show one’s genitals to the TSA, or allow them to be groped, in order to travel is the sort of unnecessary restriction on one’s liberty, and in exchange for no increase in security (these devices, and these patdowns, do not show hidden packages that could be contained in body cavities, which is the next logical step in the progression of the terrorists) and only serve to inconvenience the travelers.

Please enact legislation to stop the retaliatory patdowns and remove these intrusions into our personal privacy.

Thank you,

Christopher Turner

posted at 10:04 PM in liberty , politics , travel
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Wednesday, 10 November 2010

links for 2010-11-10

posted at 10:03 PM in links
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Saturday, 06 November 2010

links for 2010-11-06

posted at 11:12 PM in links
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Wednesday, 03 November 2010

links for 2010-11-03

posted at 11:04 PM in links
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