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August 10, 2006

The point
Posted by Patrick at 07:06 PM * 246 comments

George R. R. Martin demonstrates his membership in that portion of America that has not, in fact, gone stark raving mad:

Step by step, year by year, the TSA and its predecessors have taken away more and more of our freedoms, subjecting millions of perfectly innocent travellers to searches and interrogations and other hassles in the vague hope of catching hijackers (in the old days) and terrorists (these days). Even if it worked, the price would be too high, but of course it does not work. It has never worked.

The mindrot that leads to where we are is on full display in one of the comments to George’s post, where someone writes “I think it’s ironic that people say that these security measures aren’t helping, after a terrorist plot is thwarted.” As if the British had caught these guys by confiscating their toothpaste at Heathrow. In fact, from what we’re told, it appears this plot was rolled up by the traditional method, which is to say, weeks and months of hard slogging police work. And yet somehow this means the rest of us now have to submit to yet another expansion of intrusive, degrading security theater. Here’s a clue: the intrusiveness, the degradation, are the point. That hopelessness you feel? It’s what your rulers want.

Comments on The point:
#1 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 07:54 PM:

Amen.

Here's a suggestion on how to cope with the problem of security. (As I note in the comments, I'd actually seen this advanced previously, and it's still a fine idea.)

#2 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 08:01 PM:

This morning, I was chatting with one of my co-workers who's a Republican and she too agreed that airport security is BS that's out there to make it look like Something Is Being Done. Now, if only one of our elected officals had the guts to say so...

#3 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 08:03 PM:

Now, don't be silly Bruce.

Flying naked would get the seats funky.

When you order a ticket, you'll get in the mail a baggy, translucent disposable garment with a drop-down seat (for speeding up cavity searches) and a pocket to carry cash for in-flight purchases of Certified Nonexplosive (tm) bottled water and headphones.

God forbid if you don't arrive in the airport wearing it.

#4 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 08:05 PM:

A Democrat is a Republican who's been cavity searched?

#5 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 08:06 PM:

I'm sorry I wasn't short airline stock, especially the British carriers, who are just going to die.

I've already seen plans of several people to cancel flights to or from Britain; those who have to travel may be flying via France and taking the train.

The survival (1-theft+destruction) rate of laptops in checked luggage can't be very good.

#6 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 08:21 PM:

Look at it this way -- what better way of keeping the masses in their place than making sure they stay in their place? If it becomes a tremendous hassle to travel, then people won't, and without too much fuss freedom to travel outside your own country will slowly wither away.

Of course, since this will also break long-distance ties of friendship and kinship -- or, at any rate, make them harder to maintain except by email and phone -- this will contribute to isolating individuals from each other, thus making each of us more vulnerable to pressure from corporations and the state.

I write this with some bitterness. I was in England earlier this summer (for a conference) which gave me the chance to see my younger brother, his wife, and my lovely nieces, as well as a cousin I hadn't seen in thirty years and two old friends from my undergrad days. When, I wonder, will I be able to see them again?

#7 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 08:21 PM:

Stefan: Paper gowns, a la hospital gowns, distributed after stripping and passing through soi-disant security. (I imagine all clothing would be gate-checked, just as one can do with particularly delicate or necessary stuff like guitars and strollers.

As someone over at LJ said, let the first-class passengers have ones that actually fasten shut :-)

#8 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 08:28 PM:

let the first-class passengers have ones that actually fasten shut

Actually, TSA is using our tax money to arrange preferential treatment for 'pre-cleared' (read: rich) passengers.

Because they don't want the rich to have to suffer the indignities that ordinary Americans are subjected to.

#9 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 08:33 PM:

Am I the only one whose first thought was to wonder whether the terrorists even exist?

#10 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 08:43 PM:

I. Am. Pissed. Off.

#11 ::: Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 08:43 PM:

BoingBoing provides ample proof that the point certainly has nothing at all to do with the presumed threat posed by the suddenly suspect liquids.

#12 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 08:47 PM:

I see Fragano's mind follows similar circuits to mine. All I could think was this means less people flying.

What's going to happen to people who need various liquids, like medications? Can people who are anaphylactic fly? Are they allowed to carry their emergency epinephrine needles?

Being that you can turn almost any innocent item into a weapon or part of a weapon, what are the airlines gonna ban next?

I'm afraid to fly, myself, but for purely illogical reasons. (I'm afraid the statistics are out to get me--after all, somebody has to be one.) I keep flying because I can't imagine a life of being too scared to go anywhere, where the possibility of visiting the rest of the world could be denied to me. Because I can see my mind locking myself down to my own continent first, then my own state, then my hometown, because of all the thigns that could possibly happen to me and the statistics attached to them. I refuse to let my own mind scare me to death, and I REALLY hate the idea that my own government wants to collude with the tiny dark corners of my brain. I hate the idea that the TSA and our government insist on feeding us a steady diet of fear, fear, and more fear. (Fear, it's what's for dinner.)

#13 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 08:49 PM:

Kip: Great link....and good question.

#14 ::: Ross Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 09:05 PM:

As I commented elsewhere: How much will you bet that a ban on passengers carrying electronic gear is followed in fairly short order by a hefty surcharge on in-flight entertainment?

#15 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 09:22 PM:

Kip, I agree with Piscusfiche -- good link. Either there is really no chance that any of the liquids are dangerous, which makes the whole thing a bit ludicrous, or you really don't want to get too near to those receptacles. Considering the mixture brewing inside, I think keeping away from them is just a good idea in general

According to the TSA, only liquids and gels are being banned on flights in the US, with baby formula/breast milk, prescription drugs, and essential non-prescription drugs such as insulin excepted. No ban on electronics, at least at this point. Checking around the site and some other sources, it looks like the attention is concentrated on the flights to and from the UK -- extra air marshals and enhanced measures for those routes.

#16 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 09:23 PM:

Whoops, here's the TSA link.

#17 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 09:24 PM:

Remember Jim M.'s recent article on Heat Stress? Hydration is critical. Dehydration isn't just discomfort.

The TSA / DHS were the only people who knew ahead of time that carry-on water would be banned today. They therefore had the responsibility to plan for everyone else - everyone for whom water is necessary to health- how to ensure a good water supply on planes.

Security emergencies can affect comfort and money. But decisions and rules can't be made without thinking of health effects. Today, though, airlines weren't allowed to add extra water, nor could passengers buy water at the gate.

Emergency planning ought not to forget about water.

#18 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 09:31 PM:

I'm considering bumper stickers that say 'Vote for Sanity - Vote Democratic'.

I heard the UK government informed the US government about this security operation two weeks ago. 'Ooh, shiny!'

#19 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 09:44 PM:

Claude Muncey: No ban on electronics, at least at this point.

Tell that to my co-worker's wife who was forced to check her laptop for a flight from Boston to Seattle (today, JetBlue's only flight from Logan to SeaTac). And she was supposed to be doing a final on the plane.

#20 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 09:47 PM:

I'm sure they'll start banning electronic devices once they realize that it's not to hard to stuff explosives in them and that they have a (gasp) battery.

#21 ::: Mrs. Coulter ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 09:53 PM:

This whole thing is absurd. I too can't shake the feeling that the timing on this doesn't pass the sniff test, and that the outright ban on all liquids (including those purchased after the security inspection) is nothing but hype.

How many weeks until the midterm election?

#22 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 09:56 PM:

Can anyone think of any terrorist plots that have actually been foiled by airline security? Starting from 9/11:

* 9/11 itself -- Not foiled. Or if you think of UA93 as a foiling, 25% foiled, and that by the passengers, not security.

* Panicked passenger on AA1238, 9 Oct 2001 -- Not an actual terrorist, tackled by crew and passengers.

* The shoe bomber on AA63, 22 Dec 2001 -- Foiled by crew and passengers.

* AA924 shooting, 7 Dec 2005 -- Not an actual terrorist, innocent man killed by airport security.

* Today's plot -- Foiled by police work, never got near airports.

Any more? Any actual successes of TSA?

#23 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 09:58 PM:

Steve, they already try to turn a laptop on under the assumption that if it boots, there's not enough room to cram in explosives. I've had to accompany security while they hunt for a free receptacle because I had run the battery down during a layover.

#24 ::: mrloco ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 10:04 PM:

Crikey!

Does this mean I have to leave my fountain pen at home or packed away?

#25 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 10:04 PM:

You, know, I haven't had much faith in go through the detector gate and let us paw through your luggage ever since a relative was in the local trauma hospital.

Being the trauma hospital, that was where a lot of people involved one way or another in various criminal cases ended up and therefore, they had security checkpoints if you were visiting after hours.

On the night in question they carefully divested my husband of his pocketknives (nothing with more than a two inch blade) and waved me and my bag on through.

My knitting bag, that was. The one with the pair of twelve inch, pointy, steel knitting needles sticking out of it in plain sight.
_______

I must admit I'm rather grateful that I took a whim to make my next long distance trip by train. I mentioned that to a friend today and he noted that I was unlikely to get on a plane with a terrorist. I said, yes, but I was certain to get on one with a line to go through the security gate.
________

Even on the train, I'm going to have to show photo ID that matches my ticket. If you drive, you have to have a driver's license. Is it my imagination or is travel in the US beginning to sound like what I was always told travel in the USSR was like?

_______

For that matter, why are they even bothering with the photo ID & ticket check? This is not stuff that's hard to fake or steal. If you're planning a hijacking/terrorist attack do they really think faking an ID is going to stop you?


#26 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 10:08 PM:

OG, yeah, I remember the "Scouts Honor" (or was it Honest Scout) boot up sequence for macs. I have a 17" Mac laptop, mostly the same innards as a 12" Mac laptop, there's space in there (oh, damn, just made sure I'll never get on another plane). I know others that use gels for cooling. Another semi-test that if I were an actual terrorist, I'm sure I could rig something that booted for their test, but didn't take much room inside for a solid pack explosive. What would I care about heat sinks and other things that keep our laptops, etc. running for long periods.

#27 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 10:10 PM:

Red alert! Where's the election?

#28 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 10:19 PM:

I will not fly anymore, unless I absolutely have to. Now I have to explain to my boss why I am taking the train from the East Coast to San Francisco this November for a conference.

I will not check my electronics. I will not fly cross country without some needlework, tatting (requires no needles), or something to read. Which implies a bag to carry the stuff in. Where do purses fit into this anyway?

Crap, shtfckng pgstckrs who can't keep this country and her people safe (because they are too busy invading countries that didn't have anything to do with anything) to do the hard detective work necessary to track and apprehend the nasties.

Apologies to the pig.

#29 ::: jim ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 10:22 PM:

The problem is we don't stop flying. If large numbers of people refused to put up with this chickenshit, it would stop. We complain, we make fun, but we patiently line up and we fly.

By the way, Margaret, though they say they'll check ID to get on the train, I haven't ever seen them do it.

#30 ::: Sheryl Nantus ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 10:24 PM:

I feel I should say something here, having worked in private security for over 15 years before "retiring" in 2000 to get married.

The majority of security officers, whether in the TSA or not, are underpaid and undertrained and probably grandfathered into the job from the previous contractor. Due to many union agreements (in my experience) when a contract shifts from one security agency to another (even to the government) the same personnel are guaranteed the chance to change jobs and keep their seniority - whether you agree or disagree it's the usual way things are done. You just switch the patch from the old company to the new company and go onwards - the same people who were at the monitors before 9/11 are probably still there, just with a TSA patch on their shirt.

Unfortunately most security contractors before 9/11 usually tried to underbid each other, so you ended up with the guards getting low wages from the start - and, to be frank, I doubt that their wages and training have suddenly moved up to the level that the public wants to believe they have. Remember, most of these people have been grandfathered into their job and know that it'd take a disaster for them to lose their job, so why knock yourself out?

Having said that, please remember when you do travel that these security guards *are* literally just following orders. It's not a personal thing, not for just above minimum wage. If they're told to pull every fifth person out of line, they do it. If they're told to dump every water bottle they do it and it's not going to be personal. So please remember that they're just working stiffs like the rest of us when you're upset and standing in line.

Thank you.

#31 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 10:26 PM:

Jim - Last November, 140 mile trip on Amtrak Cascades. I had to present my ID to board the train. I don't know how common it is otherwise; the last extensive train trips I took were before 9/11.

Have they _ever_ caught anyone this way? Other than a US Senator?

#32 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 10:26 PM:

Books and magazines are also banned on British flights?

I suppose that during a layover you might have enough time to copy the London Times crossword puzzle onto your stomach to solve during the flight. Or patients might start "amusing themselves" under their blankets, as it used to be called in the days of prudery.

#33 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 10:36 PM:

So what do we do about this? I agree that it's pointless and intended to intimidate, but how do we fix it? Anyone have any useful ideas?

#34 ::: Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 10:50 PM:

Juli: freep every poll you can that you trust the Democrats to handle national security and fight terrorism better than the Republicans. As soon as they see the tide's turned, they'll drop the issue like a hot potato and go back to guns and gays and God.

#35 ::: Jonah ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 10:57 PM:

Margaret Organ-Kean wrote:

For that matter, why are they even bothering with the photo ID & ticket check? This is not stuff that's hard to fake or steal. If you're planning a hijacking/terrorist attack do they really think faking an ID is going to stop you?
Checking your ID doesn't do much to increase security, but it does make it harder for you to resell your ticket. Bruce Schneier has written about this.

#36 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 11:00 PM:

Just got off the phone to the parental units. I needed to inform them that yes, I am still flying out to see them next week, but there may of course be delays.

No, I'm not going to stop flying. I'm going to keep on remembering the actual statistics, just like I did for all of those years travelling to Belfast. And just like then, I'm at higher risk of being in a fatal car/train crash on the way to the airport. Especially with the way they drive in the Bay area...

#37 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 11:03 PM:

I for one am not gonna stop flying. Or anything else of that ilk. Since I live in a port city, odds are just as likely that someone could smuggle a dirty bomb via water into here...and nothing's been done about *that*.

Screw it. Either the terrist (deliberate misspelling) crowd or Somebody Else wants to discourage travel. Heck, sounds more like what you've gotta do to get into a particularly repressive club or venue to listen to some music.

Has anyone figured out whether EMPTY bottles are allowed that you could possibly refill from the water stores on the plane? That's what happened to us at the String Cheese concert this last weekend....

#38 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 11:05 PM:

Okay, the most severe security is in the UK. That is the only place they have made the rules so strict - in the U.S. you can still carry on your laptop and whatever. It all goes through their xray machine and the bomb-tester air device anyway. Just help them out by not over-packing your carry-on.

I'm sort of glad I'm driving to LA (I'm with the KC in 2009 bid, and I'm the drive team (come to our parties, we're having barbecue, redrum and other treats--Inger cookies among others). Then again I love driving and a long road trip is as good a stimulant that I can think of. And this time it's MY car (6 CD changer) and I'll get to load acceptable music (I drove with someone else to San Jose and she had an over-love of Meatloaf, I hope to never repeat the experience.....)

#39 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 11:08 PM:

And the first comment to the post endorses an idea that would further degrades us.

#40 ::: Writerious ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 11:12 PM:

You just know that because the plot was foiled, the far right will use it to say, "Look, we're keeping you safe from terrorism! We caught 'em, we did! We did that! Stick with us! Stay the course!"

And had the plot NOT been foiled and a plane or two or more had been blown up, the same far right mouthpieces would say, "Look, this just proves we have to get even tougher on terrorism! Stick with us! Stay the course!"

And meekly, Americans accept the added strain and inconvenience because gods know none of us want to have our flights interrupted by a sudden explosion and rapid descent. Every dull flight is a good flight.

I wonder, sometimes, as I muse about such incidents, and how they arise just before elections -- is it the far right doing some dramatic grandstandins? Or does Al Qaeda itself prefer to keep King George and his minions in the White House because having the Great Evil to fight against is the best terrorist recruitment tool?

Or perhaps a bit of both?

#41 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 11:12 PM:

This is stupid. The plan apparently was to blow up 10 airliners over the atlantic using a peroxide based explosive? Batteries are banned because they can provide the ignition? All liguids and electronics must go into checked baggage?

What the hell is to prevent them from putting the bomb inthe luggage and an altimeter to set it off?

That's it. All airliners must be designed like combat aircraft, preferrably an A-10 rather than a pansy-ass F-22. Cargo holds must be able to withstand a 100 pound bomb blast and remain airborne. Cabins must be able to withstand a 50 pound blast and not catastraphically decompress. Cabins must also be able to withstand gunfire up to .45 caliber without piercing the hull and up to 50 caliber without catastrophically decompressing. Cockpits will have their own bathroom and beverage counter, and the whole crew section will be sealed off by hydraulically powered armored doors. From the inside.

I thought flying El Al was bad. This is ridiculous.

In the meantime, as long as I have to fly without my own water, juice, and caffeine supply, I'm never getting on a plane again.

#42 ::: JaniceG ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 11:14 PM:

I swear, I don't know which televised interviews enrage me more: the ones from the air-related security people claiming that these measures are necessary and useful or the sheep-like passengers saying "As long as it's for increased security, I don't mind waiting, it's better than being blown up." *aarrgghh*

The terrorists might not have succeeded in killing 3,000 or so people by blowing up planes but to a less emotional but still measurable extent they certainly did succeed in causing far-reaching trauma and upset in the Western world.

#43 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 11:17 PM:

Take one, they're free.

#44 ::: Kristen Hartmann ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 11:29 PM:

Margaret Organ-Kean wrote:

For that matter, why are they even bothering with the photo ID & ticket check? This is not stuff that's hard to fake or steal. If you're planning a hijacking/terrorist attack do they really think faking an ID is going to stop you?

No, it won't stop you, especially since every time I've presented my ID and my ticket, the person ostensibly checking it has barely glanced at either and routinely made some illegible scrawl with a ballpoint pen on the ticket - it's hardly impressed me with said person's diligence and/or ability to foil dastardly schemes.

I really do believe that this has nothing to do with actual safety and everything to do with repressing the masses.

#45 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 11:47 PM:

That's always been my question; if banning items from being carried on makes everyone safe, what about the checked luggage? A timer on the same explosive will still bring the plane down.

For that matter, it's probably only a matter of time before electronic watches and other personal electronic items will be permanently banned.

Because they know what will make us safe, you know.

#46 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 11:49 PM:

Bill Humphries: Leaving aside for a moment the fact that the post to which I referred is intended as satire (or humor, or both), I'm not convinced that social nudity is degrading, per se. I will grant that FORCED nudity is, to the extent that such enforcement is a blow to human dignity, however.

Still, if it takes an extreme idea to expose (as it were) the lunacy that surrounds air travel these days, I'm willing to be serious about it.

#47 ::: casey ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 11:51 PM:

JaniceG is right. The terrorists were not thwarted. They trapped us. Heads - we lose several planes full of people and anything their planes might take out along the way, Tails - we suffer the lost productivity of having every single traveller's bags searched for bottles of tapwater, tubes of toothpaste and those little tiny samples of shampoo and conditioner that everyone brings home from the hotel.

X|O|X
-----
| |
-----
O| |X
X=Terrists
O=TSA

#48 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 11:54 PM:

As was pointed out here, the timing is also convenient to get Lieberman's primary loss off the front pages. Cui bono?

#49 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2006, 11:56 PM:

"Repressing the masses" is a little too organized, deliberate and sinister to ring true to me. From my observation of the way people handle issues ranging from school bullying to shoplifting, I believe the idea here is more akin to "Quick!!! We have to LOOK LIKE WE'RE DOING SOMETHING!!!!"

Gavin De Becker made a similar observation in "Fear Less".

#50 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 12:11 AM:

Kristen,
I'm not convinced the ID requirement "has everything to do with repressing the masses." I believe it's designed to prevent resale of tickets, so airlines can make more money. The airline executives who thought of it probably thought they were preventing fraud. The legislators who pushed it through in the guise of preventing hijacking and terrorism...they're responsible for knowing better.

I agree that the best response to this insanity would be to not fly. It doesn't have anything to do with fear -- it's because people without a lot of money or influence only have power via large-scale collective action like boycotts. We can't go to the management of USAirways or the TSA and say "this is crazy! It's not making anyone any safer. It's just making people sick and costing a fortune." We can write letters and complain. But they probably won't listen unless we stop flying.

I recognize that it would be best to stop flying, but I'm not going to do it myself. Air travel can be *necessary* when I am trying to squeeze in visits to a long-distance sweetie without taking vacation time from work. I don't want to lose my job, or my weekends with my sweetie. So I'm going to keep flying.

#51 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 12:12 AM:

Too bad we don't have personal jet packs. That would solve all of this. Then again, someone would figure out how to fly them into buildings.

I hadn't exactly given up on flying but it had become more inconvenient since the US had finally collated the "common terrorist names" files they'd got from the UK and decided that "Kevin Murphy" cannot get rapid check in and must stand in line with "John Williams" and all the other people whose parents were unoriginal. Southwest told me to contact my congressman, which I did, and my representative's office told me that the TSA would allow me to send them copies of various forms of ID, notarized, and then they might take me off the overly-common-named-possible-terrorist list. Maybe. If it amused them. And they stopped picking their noses. And pigs flew in formation while Hell froze over.

My reaction of course is "Bugger that!" and I now simply calculate an extra two hour delay from baldfaced liars who keep telling me I've been selected for a "random search" and I consequently drive more, fly less. Let the airlines go bankrupt.

Of course the common name has also somehow ended me up on the mailing lists for both the IRA and the Franciscans, neither of whom I belong to, let alone have ever sent money to, but since I'm being blacklisted for sounding like a possible member of the first I'm wondering if I can claim religious persecution through the second.

#52 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 12:33 AM:

As was pointed out here, the timing is also convenient to get Lieberman's primary loss off the front pages. Cui bono?

Yes, the Metropolitan police really care that much about primary results in Ct.

#53 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 12:45 AM:

Of course the common name has also somehow ended me up on the mailing lists for both the IRA and the Franciscans

Now there's a postal inspector that's going to get mental indigestion.

#54 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 12:52 AM:

@ Bruce: coerced nudity isn't okay.

And the post didn't read as satire to me. YMMV.

#55 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 01:01 AM:

The British Police and intelligence services have a pretty dodgy reputation when it comes to novel terrorist technology, but this business at least involves some sort of explosive. And for a few days, at least, there's the possibility of there being a terrorist still on the loose.

My fatherm using a catheter and leg-bag as a consequence of an enlarged prostate gland, is glad he doesn't have to fly anywhere with that particular bag of liquid.

#56 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 01:02 AM:

Keir - The Metropolitan Police might not care, but Tony Blair might want to do a good turn for his boyfriend George. It think the timing may just have quite a bit to do with the upcoming midterm elections.

#57 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 01:03 AM:

If this was being arranged for political gain, it would have happened Monday or a couple of days earlier, to give Lieberman a chance to remind people how tough he is.

The reason that they're ignoring checked baggage for now is that they think they can spot an assembled bomb. What they're worried about is bomb parts smuggled onto the plane by several passengers and assembled in flight. Supposedly, this is how Chechnyan terrorists brought down an Aeroflot flight.

#58 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 01:21 AM:

It's spreading. Over here in .au (famous for being "girt by sea") we're being told that this increased paranoia is going to happen whether we need it or not, in the interests of national security. I've never been keen on flying in the first place - hours on end stuffed in a metal tube with someone else's shrieking kid hasn't ever appealled, and there is inevitably going to be a small child crying on any flight, because they're too young to be able to handle the changes in air pressure. The notion of the same flight, the same tube, and the same shrieking kid, and no books... well, let's see how long that one lasts before air crew are assaulted by someone driven to the edge of insanity by lack of distraction from boredom.

Of course, being in .au, it doesn't matter *which* method of cross-country travel I choose, they're all going to involve the airconditioned metal tube, but I'd rather have the one which allows me to take my book(s) on board than the one which doesn't. Overseas travel? Well, looks like we're back to the tried and true method in which most of this country's population arrived in the eras preceding cheap air travel - boats. Large, small and medium sized, and I expect Fremantle port will open up for passenger shipping again if this sort of nonsense carries on.

Certainly my next journey to the UK will be by some other method than aircraft if this becomes a permanent fixture. I'd rather have to take six months for a trip overseas (and spend that time reading, writing, or even dealing with seasickness) than endure a twenty-four hour flight with nothing to distract me aside from the in-flight "entertainment" chosen by a particularly dense airline exec.

#59 ::: Emily Cartier ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 01:22 AM:

essential non-prescription drugs such as insulin excepted

Yes, this makes me feel so reassured that they know what they're doing, and have a sound plan for identifying essential medications that are OTC. Insulin isn't OTC. It's prescription only. I've been unable to find anything about it being released OTC, and I've *looked*. I may need it some day, so I keep an eye on it.

The entire plan has nothing to do with catching terrorists. It never *did* have anything to do with catching terrorists. It has everything to do with maximizing inconvenience (or in some cases danger) for the general population, while appearing to "do something". Yes, I *could* be hiding something in my toothpaste. I also *could* be hiding something in my intestines. By the time you've done everything necessary to truly guard against all "dangers", you really are left with naked people on an airplane after having been MRI scanned and X-rayed more completely than you would be for a medical procedure. And even then you're not sure they don't have something hazardous.

As far as I'm aware (and please correct me if I'm wrong), there have been *no* incidents where an attempt on an aircraft was stopped in advance by anything other than good police work or someone thinking "huh, that's odd" and asking security about it.

#60 ::: Firebug ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 01:28 AM:

If this nonsense continues, I would be surprised if the airline industry lasts another 15 years. Perhaps that is OBL's real goal?

#61 ::: Firebug ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 01:29 AM:

By "this nonsense" I mean the absurdly intrusive searches and restrictions, which are far more destructive to society than the terrorist attacks themselves ever could be.

#62 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 01:54 AM:

Hmm.

I went down to DC and back, via everywhere, in June and July of this year, on Greyhound, on a Discovery Pass, which is a 15 day unlimited single ticket.

Some places I got asked for ID. Some places, nothing. Halfway through my trip, they switched to requiring Discovery Pass holders to be issued a ticket for each leg of their trip, with ID (passport, in my case) number recorded.

I was not argumentative on account of I can't walk home from Delaware.

I have NO IDEA what happens if you're paying cash.

But the visual ID check should take care of avoiding pass fraud (which I conceed is common.

The ticket thing weirded me out. However, my leatherman travelled with me on the bus, though I was careful not to wave it about.

this is looking more and more like how I get to the UK next year. It's considerably more money, but for that I get 20 days on a ship, and also my dignity.

#63 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 01:59 AM:

Keir - The Metropolitan Police might not care, but Tony Blair might want to do a good turn for his boyfriend George. It think the timing may just have quite a bit to do with the upcoming midterm elections.

What, Blair, on the edge of being toppled by Brown, in trouble for the loans/peerages scandal, and being harried by a resurgent Tory Party, risks everything for a two-three point bonus for a politician in a different country?

If it was true, and it got out (and it would get out; there'd be too many people involved for it not to), then Blair would be dead. Hauled before a Commons baying for his blood. He'd probably be looking at never holding public office again.

(And if the plan had worked, and then it got out that Blair had manipulated the timing for George Bush's benefit, then Blair'd be looking at serious jail time. Indeed, the House of Commons would likely look again at impeachment.)

Blair is too canny an operator to risk it all for so little.

#64 ::: Elusis ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:17 AM:

they'll drop the issue like a hot potato and go back to guns and gays and God.

Kip: as a "gay," I don't consider that a heartening trade-off.

I'm also already a little over-tired of hearing people righteously declare that they'll never fly again. That kind of thing isn't so easy to say in some areas of the US, or the world. Or in certain professions (read: most of them) that don't give you flexible schedules for lengthy travel.

Here's my suggestions for in-flight entertainment. And for the satire-impaired: WARNING: SATIRE

#65 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:31 AM:

"...though they say they'll check ID to get on the train, I haven't ever seen them do it."

Travelling by train with three other people last week, I presented four IDs and four tickets at the checkin counter. Without lifting her eyes to me, the counter agent carefully compared the names on the tickets to the names on the IDs to the names on her passenger manifest. My tickets were stamped and all tickets and IDs returned to me.

Two of my fellow passengers were not even present in the station building -- they were outside smoking.

The train ID check is real, but it isn't serious yet.

#66 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:32 AM:

OG: no you're not. I think many of these things are staged.

Keir: considering what Blair has got away with already, considering what *Bush* has got away with, I think it's perfectly reasonable to theorise that he might try this (again? I don't know). For one thing, if he can get people scared enough, he might be able to hold on to power a little longer. Scared people don't risk change. The Tories are just making noises: the pigs are now sufficiently humanised that it doesn't matter to the corporate demons who's in power at any given point, but Blair has been terrified of losing his job for some years now. You can see it in his eyes.

And I thought all this *before* I saw V for Vendetta, by the way: the idea of a government inflicting terrorism on its own citizens is all too credible to me.

#67 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:33 AM:

Meg, when you wrote, than endure a twenty-four hour flight with nothing to distract me aside from the in-flight "entertainment" chosen by a particularly dense airline exec., you hit the target dead centre.

Me, I'm waiting for somebody to update "Deck of Cards".

"Hey, you!" shouted the TSA guard. "Why are you carrying a bible onto the airliner?"

BTW, was it Poul Anderson who wrote a story in which the hero makes an IED from a deck of cards?

#68 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:33 AM:

As much as I would like to think this is security theater, it might well not be. And, as somebody who frequently flies on UK-US flights, I can't say that I would miss my books on flight more than i would miss my life, if I were to blow up mid-Atlantic.

I can't give up flying because I have family in San Francisco. I can give up water, I can give up books (I sleep on planes anyway), I can buy a reinforced case for my laptop (I've seen musical instruments checked in the hold, after all). What will be really really hard to do will be to give up my wonderful in-flight sleeping bag, because I am miserably cold on planes. So the next step is thermal underwear, of course.

Still: flying will become more difficult, and more expensive, which for somebody flying with no expesense paid between continent is far from a trivial point.

And of course, the fact remains, as always has been, that if they really want to blow you up, they will find a way.

(shrug)

#69 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:42 AM:

Sheryl Nantus wrote:

"...please remember when you do travel that these security guards *are* literally just following orders. It's not a personal thing, not for just above minimum wage. ... So please remember that they're just working stiffs like the rest of us when you're upset and standing in line."

I confess I'm running out of patience for these sorts of arguments. "The people violating your civil or human rights are really nice fellows, just cogs in the machine like you, don't take it personally...." Sorry, but no. People are responsible for what they do, no matter how badly they need the paycheck. If your job requires you to oppress people, and you keep the job, you're an oppressor. A paycheck isn't a magic moral ticket to do evil.

#70 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:46 AM:

Dammit, I really hate things that make me feel like Ayn Rand understood anything at all outside her head, but this sort of constriction of basic opportunities is just too reminiscent of the gradual industrial collapse in the middle of Atlas Shrugged. I resent it.

#71 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 04:14 AM:

Greg London: All airliners must be designed like combat aircraft, preferrably an A-10 rather than a pansy-ass F-22.

(puts on Aviation Expert Hat - spent yesterday talking to CNN and BBC about this whole imbroglio)
Actually, if it's a case of being shot at with heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles, I'd rather be in a widebody airliner than an A-10. Airliners are built to lose an engine (or more, in the case of four-burners) and a considerable amount of wing and still fly. A SAM will home on the engine, not the fuselage, and the bursting charge will kill the engine - and maybe damage the hydraulics - but is unlikely to down the aircraft. Plus, high-bypass turbofans make terrible heat lures compared to the engines on a combat aircraft; and the sheer size and mass of an airliner give it the edge too. Plus, every flight-critical system is duplicated on an airliner, just like on an A-10.

Cargo holds must be able to withstand a 100 pound bomb blast and remain airborne. Cabins must be able to withstand a 50 pound blast and not catastraphically decompress.

You have airlines that allow you to check 100-pound hold baggage and 50-pound carryon? Good for you.

But I don't think you know what you're asking - this is basically impossible to do if you want an airliner that will actually take off. A 105mm artillery shell only weighs 34lb, and some of that is casing, and that will still blow a crater six feet across in your back yard if you aim it badly. One pound of explosive in the cargo hold was enough to destroy Pan Am 103. 16 pounds in a bar mine will destroy a tank.

Cabins must also be able to withstand gunfire up to .45 caliber without piercing the hull and up to 50 caliber without catastrophically decompressing.

Catastrophic decompression doesn't happen because of gunfire. If I fire a .45 round through the hull, I now have an aircraft with a hole .45 inches across in the hull. Big deal. The cabin pressurisation system is enough to cope - the cabin's not hermetically sealed anyway, there are always some leaks. Step it up to a .50? Same difference.

Cockpits will have their own bathroom and beverage counter,

Good idea.

and the whole crew section will be sealed off by hydraulically powered armored doors.

Already happened. (Not hydraulic, but armoured. I've seen the tests - they'll stop anything up to a .50.)

From the inside.

Well, yes.

#72 ::: lalouve ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 04:15 AM:

I shudder at the thought of travelling without other reading materials than the flight magazines, or the complimentary issue of The Times. Ever tried to handle an issue of The Times in an airplane seat? Not recommended.

I used to amuse myself by figuring out how many potential weapons I carried in my carry-on baggage (broken plastic makes fine cutting edges), even though I can no longer fly with a nail clipper. Now even that innocent pastime is gone...

#73 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 04:34 AM:

Most of the AA shells fired in WW2 were around 25 pounds total weight, and only about 10% of that weight was the explosive. You can probably find some specifics on the web, but a direct hit by a shell that size was sufficient to bring a plane down. Not certain; planes did get back from bombing Germany with great big holes.

We're talking about a kilogram of TNT. Depending on where it was, a 747 might survive something like that. Smaller airliners have landed safely with huge holes in the fuselage after a pressure structure failure.

I wouldn't want to bet on it.

#74 ::: Nikki Jewell ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 04:46 AM:

I think the new security measures are about public reassurance rather than anything else - to make it look as if the government are doing something about the threat.

I don't think they are reassuring. I spent a good hour last night working out ways around the new UK security measures - it wouldn't be difficult to do.

#75 ::: Dan Guy ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 05:25 AM:

From LiveJornal user "rhiannonstone":

First they came for the knitting needles, and I didn't speak up
Because I wasn't much of a knitter
Then they came for the shoes, and I didn't speak up
Because I wear sandals
Then they came for the lighters, and I didn't speak up
Because I don't smoke
Then they came for my Dr Pepper
And now it's on, motherfuckers!

#76 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 05:52 AM:

Sheryl,
please remember that those poor Chilean soldiers were only following orders, when they rounded up people in stadia around the country.

(take this, Godwin!)

#77 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 07:00 AM:

The "only enough meds for the flight" concerns me a lot, even though I pretty much don't fly and am not dependent on meds.

It's not unusual for it to take extra hours and sometimes much longer for people to get reunited with their checked luggage, and a lot of people don't have that much slack with their meds.

Bruce, I consider Ayn Rand to be both wrong about a lot and also someone who said true things which not a lot of other people were or are saying.

#78 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 07:09 AM:

Random thoughts:

Bombproofing airliners: There's been some work done over the years in blastproofing standard cargo containers; I don't honestly know how often passenger baggage is containered up, as small airliners certainly just have a baggage hold. I've only seen footage of some of the tests rather than hard numbers, but they looked impressive. Of course, heavy containers cut down on your baggage allowance, and only work on checked baggage.

The problem with aircraft is that if they are to be in any way economical, they have to be built light, which rather precludes armouring airliners.

On banning books: soak a book in nitric acid, and the cellulose in the paper would convert to guncotton, which would possibly be the only way one could describe an airport bestseller as explosive reading...

Ajay: you weren't at Farnborough this year were you? I have a sneaking suspicion we may have met.

#79 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 07:24 AM:

Jakob: No, I am not David Learmount or Max Kingsley-Jones. (I wasn't at Farnborough this year, though I've been there in the past).

#80 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 08:10 AM:

I thought this response to Mr. Martin was particularly disgusting:

Please keep any kind of political opinions to yourself . You are a great author and cannot wait to read "Dance of Dragons". But when you start rambling on and on about your political viewpoints and put down those around us who are trying to keep us safe well ut leaves a bad taste in my mouth among others.Just write good books and let proper agencies take care of the world problems O.K.?

His response was amusing though:

Please keep my political opinions to myself???

You know, when I put some political posts on my Update page and some Bushies wrote to complain, I had to concede that they had a point, kinda, sorta, even if it was my website. The page was Update, after all. So I created Not A Blog, where I can say anything I want... and you still have the nerve to come in here and tell me to keep my opinions to myself??

Why don't you go back to hiding under your bed and stop reading my journal. I'm sure the "proper agencies" would like that.

And you can stop reading my books while you're at it. I don't need readers who see me as some sort of trained monkey whose sole purpose in life is providing them with entertainment.

#81 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 09:10 AM:

this is basically impossible to do if you want an airliner that will actually take off.

I may have been venting in frustration rather than speaking from behind a design table.

Catastrophic decompression doesn't happen because of gunfire.

Yes, I saw that episode of Mythbusters. I recal the end where they put a fistful of plastic explosives against the inside of the cabin, between two windows, and it made a gaping hole.

I'm just frustrated and had fantasies about some technical solution built into the planes making the stupidity at the checkin counter unneccessary.

Ok, no technical fantasy, how about a monetary fantasy. I'll save up and buy a Glassair3, and bypass all this stupid crap.

#82 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 09:25 AM:

ABC News this morning showed a reporter in Chicago who flew there yesterday from NYC. She reported that many, many people simply walked right on to the plane with drinks, water bottles, toothpaste, etc, while some passengers were search-stripped and relieved of all "banned" items. There seemed no rhyme or reason to it; some adults with children had to give up formula, while some single passengers carried water bottles and other items right past the guards.

#83 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 09:26 AM:


This is what galls me most about Republicans. While we are in Iraq ostensibly to spread democracy, the truth is that Republicans have become opposed to the basic precepts of a pluralist society. They do not want people of different faiths and viewpoints sharing power in this country. When a Republican author voices his views, we Democrats have no problem voicing our differences of opinion, but we would not suggest that he shouldn't give voice to his. We actually want a free society where people can express their differences, and the Republicans want a stranglehold on power at the expense of any differing views.

#84 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 09:35 AM:

What, I would like to know, is the danger from books? Is there some sort of fear that, midway across the Atlantic, some quiet person who's been reading the Koran will suddenly shout 'Death to all infidels!' and proceed to attack passengers and cabin crew?

#85 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 09:44 AM:

I was required to show ID in order to buy Acela tickets about, oh, maybe six months ago? Not long-haul, just Boston to NYC and back.

I flew yesterday. Phoenix back to Providence. Based on my experiences and those of colleagues who were flying at different airpots, the security measures were very unevenly applied at different airports. At PHX they were just looking at the X-rays of carryons and then inspecting a few things that looked strange, and there was no secondary check at the gate before boarding the plane. At a smaller airport in NC they were going through the bags of some passengers, but not all. At BOS they apparently were going through every single bag.

Lots of news cameras. I saw reporters interviewing the "sheep-like" passengers mentioned above. You know what? Having been in their shoes, I think their reaction was perfectly understandable. Try being at an airport with people with bullhorns yelling at you that there's a terror threat, and TSA people who ask if you'd rather be SAFE when you ask about whether you'll be able to make your flight, and security teams and dogs and fire response teams -- and not being at least a little bit freaked out. Taking away people's Chap-Stick is idiotic. Absolutely bloody pointless. But I get why it made people feel safer.

*shrug* Maybe if you [generic you] had been at an airport yesterday, in the middle of the freak-out, you'd have been able to tell the television reporter all about what bullshit the whole thing was. But maybe not. It was a scary situation, and the response couldn't have been better-designed to evoke fear. If they had interviewed me yesterday, I might well have been one of the sheep.

#86 ::: Lisa Padol ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 09:51 AM:

Anyone remember the Moonlighting episode where a very clever murder was committed using fear of hijackers?

A bomb threat was called in about a particular airplane. The threat was that a bomb would detonate if the airplane went below 1000 feet of elevation, so the plane was routed to a city where the elevation was above 1000 feet.

On the flight was a man who had to take a special kind of medicine that was not effective at high altitudes. The killers knew that he'd be dead before he could take his next dose, which he was, in a darkly comedic scene. ("There, you see, you're all right." "Yes, so I am. Whee!" )

-Lisa Padol

#87 ::: Ailsa Ek ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 10:09 AM:

Pfui. If I can't take my water bottles (yes, plural), I'm not going. Trains are nice & comfortable and have way more leg room.

Granted, I didn't fly before anyway. The last round of security measures offended, as did the ones before that. There's nowhere I need to be in that sort of hurry, so I'll just give it a miss, thanks.

#88 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 10:09 AM:

I think the point above, re:TSA security guys "just doing their jobs" isn't meant to excuse opression.

Knowing that security guys are recycled from contractor to contractor is important information, thanks.

Knowing that they are poorly paid, and "just follow orders" - also helpful. Why? Because if I'm being pulled out of line by someone who I know is an unhappy, poorly paid person AND I show a certain amount of forebearance then they will likely be willing to do the most cursory job possible, which makes my life easier.

Arguing with people, while an effective technique in some situations (i.e. blogs), isn't in this one, and this information confirms it. Have a problem with a poorly implemented policy? Chances are, the guy going through your stuff has nothing to do with it. Find his boss. If the policy itself is clearly insane, well, that is what political action is for.*

DISCLAIMER: nothing in this post is to be construed as supporting, advocating, or condoning the behavior of any jack-booted thugs anywhere, at any time. Let me rephrase: "just following orders" is endorsed as a useful descriptor, not as a rationalization.

-r.

*passive resistance, public noncompliance, etc is of limited value in most security theater situations without the cooperation of a very large number of confederates who are willing to go to jail. Passive resistance is not the same thing as being an argumentative jerk, a point lost on some.

#89 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 10:19 AM:

Eventually we won't be able to take anything on planes - and we'll all have to ride in our underwear. Oh, wait, someone could rig an underwire bra to explode.

Naked. We'll all have to ride naked, and be subject to cavity searches before we board. It'll feel like you're going to jail instead of on vacation.

#90 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 10:21 AM:

I'll save up and buy a Glassair3

Bake Sale at my house this Sunday.

And every Sunday for the next 50 years.

#91 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 10:23 AM:

Whoops, teach me to click the links before I post, huh. Crazy.
And there is a list of 'acceptable' liquids. So what's to stop a terrorist from making an explosive bottle of baby formula?

#92 ::: MikeB ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 10:37 AM:
I saw reporters interviewing the "sheep-like" passengers mentioned above. You know what? Having been in their shoes, I think their reaction was perfectly understandable.

Amen to that. People understand that security guards can send someone to jail for telling the wrong joke at the wrong time.

Thus, when I'm within earshot of an airline security line, I'm all about compliance. "Yes, sir" and "no, sir" and "thanks for keeping us safe" and "oh, it's no trouble".

There are many proper times, places, and tactics for fighting back against idiotic security theater. But the security zone itself, in the middle of a knot of annoyed and possibly panicked people, is not the right place.

#93 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 10:38 AM:

I fly between 50 and 75 thousand miles a year, every year, for work. I have done since I took this job 5 years ago--hired on 3 weeks before 9/11. My colleagues all travel just as much as I do. There is no way to do our job without travel, and lots of it.

So we worry about all of this, and we get annoyed, and some of us *do* think that it would make a hell of a lot of sense if those of us who fly so often that the TSA folks at our airport greet us by name and ask us about our families could get pre-cleared to make lines shorter for us and for everyone else.

Some of us wonder how much longer our jobs will exist at all.

And several of us are trying to figure out what another colleague who is a nursing mom ought to do about her trip to Houston next week. She's not bringing the baby, so she'll need to express breastmilk, and aside from the potential awkwardness of needing to ask your bosses to give you 15 minutes in the ladies room so you can pump, it's completely unclear to us whether--with no baby around to provide the alibi--the airlines will let her bring her expressed milk onto the plane with her or not. And those of us who've nursed know how distressing and wasteful it is to have to "pump and dump."

And my daughter, who travels with me often, still takes a bottle. How much milk will they think is "necessary" for the length of the flight? Does TSA determine that? Do I? Can I point out to them that the flight from Detroit to Indy (45 minutes) has sometimes taken me 6 hours?

And again, just two weeks ago, I flew home from Portland, ME, via Detroit. In Detroit it was announced that a flight that was getting ready to depart (happily, NOT my plane) was having AC trouble. The interior temperature of the plane was approx. 110 degrees. Passengers were offered the chance to take that flight or another leaving much later. Our flight was cooler--probably about 86 degrees. How do the airlines expect passengers to manage that without water?

It's a grim office here these days.

#94 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 10:39 AM:

Soon some terrorists wil attempt to smuggle explosive onboard in their colons. The TSA will respond by banning all assholes from commercial flights. Air crews will respond "We've been wanting that for years!"

G'night folks! The veal's been here all week!

#95 ::: Steven Brust ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 10:40 AM:

OG: Am I the only one whose first thought was to wonder whether the terrorists even exist?

No, include me there, too.

I do not think this is an effort to win an election, or to distract from the CT election results, or to raise the price of airline tickets. I see it as part of a continued effort to whip up hysterical fear to create a climate that will permit more of our basic rights to be amputated.

Some might be interested in this discussion of those issues, from the World Socialist Web Site:
http://wsws.org/articles/2006/aug2006/lond-a11.shtml

#96 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 10:42 AM:

BTW, was it Poul Anderson who wrote a story in which the hero makes an IED from a deck of cards?

I don't remember Anderson doing that, but Dickson did. (I go past a business named 'Frontier Trading, Inc' every day. Whether they sell spacejacking equipment is an open question.)

#97 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 10:43 AM:

BTW, was it Poul Anderson who wrote a story in which the hero makes an IED from a deck of cards?

Gordon Dickson, think HiLIfter a short followed by None But Man. Cully When or something close to that aka Culihan O'Rourke. The technology was more or less accurate but unlikely, I think, in that time and place.

Time was diced movie film stock could be used in much the same way as a propellent. So far as I know the deflagration -> detonation transition was a little harder than described.

The IRA did some interesting things to disguise plastic explosives especially as reported in attempts to kill a travelling Royal.

#98 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 10:49 AM:

I'm wondering about the "sports drinks" that the terrorists were supposed to have planned to smuggle explosive inside of. The idea, from what little I've read (and I know I can't expect the mainstream news media to actually be reliable about technical details) is that each container would have a false bottom. Explosives in the bottom, real drink in the top, so as to defeat the test that requires the passenger to drink from the bottle to prove that it's a beverage.

Now, I'm wondering what "sports drinks" were. Are we talking transparent plastic bottles, or opaque cans? Because this would be a much more difficult trick to pull off with a transparent bottle, especially a colorless one. You'd have to both pick an explosive that matches the color and transparency of your beverage (I don't know how difficult this is), and hide the false bottom. You could pull off the latter with a label, or by being careful where you place your hand, or just by relying on the TSA agent to not be looking for that sort of thing.

But now they will be looking for that sort of thing. So if this plot actually involved an attempt to smuggle things in cans, why is the TSA banning clear plastic bottles? (OK, because they're panicked, is why. But still.)

#99 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 10:51 AM:

Some of the hyperbole is extreme: the two LA newspapers today have headline stories with lines like 'intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale' and 'the world would have stood still'. Jeeze, you'd think they were planning to kill half the people in the world, instead of what, five to six thousand? Ten probably-jumbo jetloads, assuming all of the plotters got on planes and got their bombs to explode successfully. Big, yes; destructive, yes; but the worst effects would be the measures put in place by the idiots in government to prevent the horses being stolen again.

#100 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 10:55 AM:

We've never flown anywhere but Mexico before and we're going to Amsterdam (from San Jose) in less than a week. It's thirteen hour flight. We went and loaded up on Japanese sodas for the flight. My daughter is taking Vicodin every couple of hours (post spine surgery) and I have to keep well hydrated for blood pressure reasons. I wonder if a doctor's letter will help us bring on our own drinks?

And how do people bear thirteen hour flights without carrying on books and nintendos and knitting and things?

I don't believe any of it, myself.

#101 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 11:13 AM:

I am glad pretty much everyone got home from Mythcon before this happened. Bruce A., the first thing that crossed my mind when I heard about the security measures is "how long till _Puppetmasters_?" so your link is spot-on. I love to travel, but in civilized comfort -- I've been flying less and less as amenities have decreased and invasive security measures have increased. The only thing I like about air travel is the opportunity to read, and if I can't do that, phooey on them.

#102 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 11:29 AM:

Fragano: What, I would like to know, is the danger from books?

Oh, it's *so* easy to take things out of context.

***

Lucy - Contact the airline in advance. Even if you can't bring your own water, you can probably arrange a dedicated supply. Also, if you can, find the *nice* flight attendant (there's usually at least one, it'll be the one whose smile isn't forced) and explain your daughter's needs. A big smile usually helps in getting airline staff to actually help you.

#103 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 11:38 AM:

What you need to know.

1) If there was some chemical you could add to gatorade to get a high grade explosive, the oil crisis would be over.

2) Polyethyene and polypropylene are not radiotransparent. A false bottom would stand out.

3) Sports bottles + many explosive precursors = big leak.

4) There's a big difference between stupidity and martydom. One is mixing chemicals in a lab to create a substantial amount of explosive, the other is to have a small amount explosive go off in your hand, coating you in the precursor chemicals. If you're making TATP or Nitroglycerine, this will hurt you badly, but barely annoy the plane.

Yes, there are ways to make enough liquid explosives to bring down an airliner reliably. They're all hard, they use nasty chemicals -- anything positing "And I'll then mix in this white fuming nitric acid" isn't a real threat in an airport lav, because of transportation and time issues -- and they're all findable using current tech.

This threat is bullshit. You are being lied to. This alert happened on the day that it did for simple political reasons. Jack Ried wants his liberty stripping bills to pass in the UK. Dick Cheney desperatly need to keep Congress from seriously investigating him. That's why Bush and Blair talked about this Sunday, and Dick Cheney called the UK on Monday.

My answer: I won't fly to support a lie. Until these rules are lifted (note, we still take off our shoes, so I figure this is never) I will not fly.

If miracles occur by Tuesday, I'll be at LA. Otherwise, I suggest you do the same. We may not have the political pull to change this, but the Airlines might, if they lose enough business to give them the will to fight it.

I'll miss seeing many of you -- indeed, many of you I'll rarely if ever see, since you are too far away. I never, ever thought in my life that I'd be siding with Keith Lynch. But there is a line that cannot be crossed, and I've found it. Accepting these rules is knowingly agreeing with a lie -- a lie told to enable more civil liberties to be destroyed.

#104 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 11:46 AM:

Gee, it looks like I'll have to drive everywhere I go now. As an attorney, I keep privileged information on my laptop. However, if I allow the laptop to go into checked baggage, that information becomes accessible to others (particularly since I'm no longer allowed to securely lock check-on baggage before I get it to the airport). I will therefore have committed an ethics violation.

It can't be much better for others who keep confidential company information on a laptop. Let's say that an executive's laptop gets mysteriously damaged in transit, and that the trade secrets on that laptop get mysteriously leaked to competitors and/or the press. Wouldn't you just love to be the first-year associate at BigF*ckingLawFirm who is assigned to research whether checking that laptop with the Samsonite Gorillas just might constitute failing to take adequate care to keep trade secrets confidential?

Bottom line: As usual, somebody:
* Had the authority to make this kind of decision/statement,
* Had little or no experience with the practicalities of counterterrorist and counterintelligence methods and operations, and
* Had fewer operating braincells than I have children (two)

#105 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 11:55 AM:

Personally, I think it's nice to see the terrorists doing their bit to fight global warming.

#106 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 11:59 AM:

They presumably used Lucozade bottles because the label wraps all the way round the bottle and goes all the way down to the base - having two compartments in a water or cola bottle would be obvious because the label is really small.
Is there a good reason you couldn't make nitroglycerine in advance and carry a bottle on to the plane? As long as you didn't bang the bottle around it should be OK.

#107 ::: Adrian Turtle ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 12:05 PM:

Lucy,
If your health, or your daughter's, would be seriously threatened by not having your own drinking water on the flight, you should consider canceling your reservations. Sometimes you can get help from flight attendents, sometimes not, especially in a high-security situation (or if another passenger has an emergency.)

A lot of airlines are relaxing their usual rules about not allowing people to cancel or reschedule. Call your travel agent, or the airline if you don't have a travel agent. Call today to find out what your options are, even if you intend to wait a few days and decide closer to the planned departure time in case the airline restrictions change.

#108 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 12:21 PM:

Erik V. Olson said: Jack Ried wants his liberty stripping bills to pass in the UK.

His name is John Reid. From The Independent: The first [identity] cards were meant to be introduced in 2008, but that target has been dropped following the review of the department ordered by John Reid after his appointment as Home Secretary.

He doesn't sound that desperate about implementing "liberty stripping bills".

#109 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 12:23 PM:

Adrian: this is our first and maybe only chance to ever go anywhere off the North American continent. I don't think we're cancelling. We can drink anything: but we invested an afternoon and a not-inconsiderable amount of money in snacks and drinks for the trip.

But I have a question I can't seem to answer by googling: is it all US flights where you can't have a book, or only UK-US flights?

What's terroristic about a book?

#110 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 12:24 PM:

How much does a laptop cost these days>

And all your other routine electronic gear--mobile phone, MP3 player, all the other stuff.

And what limits do the airlines put on their liability for damaged or lost lucggage? Can you even get insurance for valuables in unlocked checked luggage?

#111 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 12:25 PM:

Looking over the news reports, this appears real but, well, less terrifying than the reports. I mean, they'd been watching these people since last December. I do think that even a small amount of explosive on a flight could cause serious harm, perhaps even bring down a craft; cabin pressure would probably be lost and there's always the possibility of interference with the control systems of the craft.

That said, for heaven's sake, we're not making anyone safer by this intensity of search. I'm flying to Worldcon next week--be interesting to see how it goes.

#112 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 12:29 PM:

Lucy: The book ban is for any flight originating in the UK (including people in transit via the UK), and there are reports that they are allowing people to buy books from the bookshops after the security searches. US *to* UK flights seem to be fine on books, at the moment they're only banning liquids.

#113 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 12:36 PM:

Kip,

With all due respect, I don't think voting Democratic is going to help. I'm not willing to settle for just keeping things from getting worse, I want these insane, pointless regulations rescinded. How do we go about doing that?

#114 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 12:39 PM:

Interesting to look at the current history of the Acetone Peroxide article on Wikipedia. A great many edits very recently.

#115 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 12:47 PM:

As long as you didn't bang the bottle around it should be OK.

Potholes. Security belts. "Sir, I need to rescreen this bag (drops back on belt)." People bumping into you in line, causing you to trip. "Oh, I'm sorr..bang"

And while nitroglycerine is a very powerful explosive -- up there with RDX and PETN -- an ounce is unlikely to damage a plane enough to make it fall out of the sky. It would be useful as a primary explosive to detonate a larger, but less sensitive explosive.

The real problem is making the stuff. Somebody told me that he could mix it in the airport lav. The chances of him making enough to down the plane without it killing him first are basically nil. When that first bit of glycerine hits the warm nitric acid/sulfuric acid mix (Assume he's not going to wait for it to cool down with the fuming acids hitting the smoke detectors and the noses of everyone on the plane) it will quickly blow, coating the bomber and the lav in white fuming nitric acid and sulfuric acid.

This is very hard on the lav, and even harder on the idiot, but not the sort of thing that blows up an airplane.

Once again: Any fool can kill himself by mixing chemicals. A martyr needs to mix the chemicals so that all of them form the explosive, *then* set the explosive off.

Now multiply the odds by 10 -- if you're going to take ten planes at once, you have 10 times the chances of accidental predetonation. Even one early blast may wreak the whole plan.

As a solo loon, it is barely feasable to use nitro. As a plan to take a dozen planes? Too much chance of discovery.

(Aside -- this is why I don't believe the offical story on the London tube bombings. Acetone Peroxide? You can, in fact, pick a less stable explosive, say, picric acid or that purple favorite of hackers everywhere, nitrogen triiodide, but TATP is more shock senstive that nitroglycering. TATP main trigger seems to be perversity. It gets touchier as it gets warmer. So four guys spend a couple of hours hauling large bags of TATP around in summer, and manage to detonante the blasts where they want to? Not likely. I'd be a little more inclined if the bomb that went off on the bus happened well before the others, but it didn't -- so it was set off about when it was supposed to be.)

Personally, I want two lines, going to different terminals and planes. One line has searches, interviews, carefully secured terminal areas, and such. The other is just like airports were in 2000.

Label the first "coward" and the second "not coward". Because, quite simply, the most dangerous part of your trip -- the one, that by a large margin, is most likely to kill you -- is the drive to the airport.

That was true before 9/11, after 9/11 and on 9/11. Some people got very unlucky on 9/11, but if you weren't on the magic four planes, you're odd of dying were much lower in the air. Hijacking is no longer a threat -- we fixed that problem 30 minutes into the attack -- you aren't getting the plane for free anymore. (Why do you think they want to use bombs now?)

So. Let's call these people what they are. Cowards. If you insist on being a coward, do us a favor and stop flying.

#116 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 12:51 PM:

The system is already routing around our sense of outrage and absurdity about the TSA. Here's what we look like to readers of the San Francisco Chronicle:

PSYCHE OF BLOGOSPHERE: "Experts call venting opinions a response to vulnerability".

We may be clear and accurate in identifying the political context and probable-uselessness of the TSA security precautions online. But I think talking up the pictures published on Boing Boing might be the best way to get this across to a larger audience.

If all these confiscated liquids are potentially dangerous, why are security personnel just pouring them into trash cans?

If reporters could manage to ask Bush that question in a public press conference, I think it would show the confusion and incompetence of the TSA in a way that would overpower the various spin filters that are already in place. (Maybe I should copy Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on this thought.)

#117 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 12:55 PM:

Madeline:

Thanks for the correction on the name -- I crossed John Reid with Jack Straw. As to the misspelling, I wish my brain was better about it, and I dislike mispelling names, but it isn't, and the whole ie thing is the worst. The only true line about that I know are "I before E, except when it isn't, or it is Seth Breidbart."

He doesn't sound that desperate about implementing "liberty stripping bills".

Allow me to quote Mr. Reid himself, from Monday, no less.

The majority of the public understood its seriousness but there were those who "just don't get it", whose opposition was undermining the struggle. They included:
· Politicians who opposed the anti-terror measures the police and security services said were necessary to combat the threat.
· European judges who passed the "Chahal judgment" that prohibited the home secretary from weighing the security of millions of British people if a suspected terrorist remained in the UK against the risk he faced if deported back to his own country.
· The media commentators who "apparently give more prominence to the views of Islamist terrorists rather than democratically elected Muslim politicians like premier Maliki of Iraq or President Karzai of Afghanstan".

This is the talk of a man trying to shut down his opponents, and he said this the day before the alert occurred.

This would be lunacy, of course -- if it hadn't happened repeatedly in the US. Now, when I hear terror alert, I don't look at the terrorists, I look at the polls

I can't think of a single reason why HM Government would want a distraction from current events right now. Can you?

#118 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 12:57 PM:

I want these insane, pointless regulations rescinded.

I don't think the regulations are the goal of the powers that be, I don't even think the 'hopelessness' is the goal (though it's a means to an end). I think the goal of the people who are pushing these pointless regulations is to put people in a sufficient state of fear, and hopelessness, so that they no longer see a solution.

And if people no longer see a solution, if they are afraid to the point that they can't even think straight, many have a tendency to defer to authority. This deference to authority does fit the Republican model of rule. Lakoff called it the "Parent-Child" approach, where the government plays parent to the childish population, making decisions for them, telling them what to do, etc. Lakoff describes the Democrat model of rule as more of an "Equal-Equal" model.

If there is any truth to that, then voting Democrat would seem like one way to help.

Then again Bush and 20 Democrats are the only folks I know who are taking the position that Israel can do no wrong, and I still haven't figured out that party shift, but that was a different thread. The only point to make there is that Democrats ain't all perfect either.

The problem, though, at its very base, seems to be people succumbing to fear. When I started reading the news, I didn't feal fear, I felt anger at the government for practically encouraging fear, and I felt frustrated by all teh people who swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. If people heard the news about the terrorists, and saw the moronic security theater going on at the airport, and didn't get so afraid that they defer to their government, like a child defering the big decisions to their parents, then there wouldn't be a problem.

But people are afraid and some are even in panic mode. And simply saying "remain calm" doesn't work. Being calm might help, if others see you being calm. Pointing out what works and what doesn't work, might help. But some people feel like they're trapped in a burning building and they can't think straight, so I'm not sure what to do for them.

Indestructible planes would solve that problem, but ajay says we don't quite have enough of that indestructible comic book steel to rebuild the airline fleet.

#119 ::: Rich McAllister ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 01:04 PM:

Sara S; The trouble with any prescreening plan is that it can only tell who you are and what you've done in the past, not what you will do in the future. There's no reason that some of the people in this plot couldn't have qualified a couple months ago; there's no reason to think that future plots couldn't simply recruit somebody who's already qualified. Suicide bombers are not repeat offenders.

Avram: the BBC World TV news showed an example of a bottle with a false bottom, It was what I think of as an old style plastic bottle with a opaque stiffening cap on the bottom. I haven't seen one of those in years in the US, but perhaps they are still in use in parts of the world.

Lucy: On the dubious assumption that it makes sense at all, my guess is the problem with a book is it might be hollowed out and used to conceal something else.

#120 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 01:04 PM:

Oh, and don't worry about executives losing their laptops, this article shows how they'll solve that problem.

Makes me think of the government guy in charge of airline security right after 9-11 taking government chartered flights everywhere, rather than riding on the planes he was supposed to be protecting.

Personally, I think every flight should have one seat reserved for an airline inspector, and every flight one inspector is picked and thrown on the plane they just helped inspect. And this should go all the way up to the DHS chief has to fly commercial once a week. And no "quick pass" coupon either. He gets the full treatment. then we'd see these fear-mongering rules evaporate real quick like.

#121 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 01:11 PM:

Lucy: On the dubious assumption that it makes sense at all, my guess is the problem with a book is it might be hollowed out and used to conceal something else.

Well, I have such a book. It's not a real book, but it's made to sit on a shelf and blend in with other books. I assume it's to hide small valuables.

I also have a "lipstick" which conceals a small knife blade.

None of this implies that I think the current security precautions are other than completely insane.

#122 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 01:27 PM:

Lakoff describes the Democrat model of rule as more of an "Equal-Equal" model.

See e.g. Wikipedia on nanny state:
The British Labour Party politician Margaret Hodge is perhaps the best known defender of the nanny state, saying at a speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research on 26 November 2004, that "some may call it the nanny state but I call it a force for good". emphasis added.

I see far more nanny state in Democratic San Francisco than I see Parent-Child in Republican Idaho.

For me the ubiquitous rifle toting men in black triggers some anxiety. Black clad, ballistic helmeted, with automatic rifles festooned with Eotech/Acog et.al. sights and SureFire lights on vertical foregrips all carried on single point slings that don't lend themselves to muzzle control.

#123 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 01:35 PM:

I haven't flown since about 2000 -- the airport security rules were starting to trigger my "no free person should submit to this indignity" flags even before 9/11, and afterwards, there was just no way. I had to change careers, though, because the professional line I was in previously sometimes required flying.

It's never been about fear for me. I used to think that it was an economic boycott -- that the airlines were the only ones with the pull to kill the ridiculous security theater, and they needed to see their economic death looming before they would step in and flex their political muscles. However, it's become clear in recent years that airlines will go down to bankruptcy without trying to address this problem -- just google for bogus "the airlines are hurting because people are afraid to fly" stories.

Perhaps airline executives really do think the drop in custom is due to fear; perhaps they really are that stupid. Or perhaps, as suggested higher in this thread, they are aware that the security theater is demanded by their political masters and there's no hope of getting it changed.

In any case, I no longer think that people refusing to fly until the security theater goes away is going to get this fixed. The government is perfectly willing to destroy the domestic airline industry over this, because the endgame is to nationalize (er, "bail out") the last two airlines standing and turn them into a lovely "Amtrak-in-the-sky" affair. Most people won't be able to afford to fly, but economically-vital worker drones will struggle along, just as they do today.

So I no longer characterize my refusal to fly as an economic boycott. It's just cussedness on my part, or, if you will, the determination of a free person not to submit to that particular set of indignities. I've never held a job that required me to pee in a cup -- a free person does not urinate before witnesses on command -- and in that same spirit, I don't go through airline security checkpoints.

#124 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 01:36 PM:

Yes, Clark, I suppose one could attempt to frame liberal ideas in the Parent-Child language. However, there's a difference between the parents who want to guarantee some minimum level of welfare for everyone, and say, teh parents who want to force their bible down their children's throats, who preach "spare the rod, spoil the child" gibberish, and who want to control even the most personal decisions that their "children" make, from what they do with their bodies to whom they marry to which God they worship in school.

But if you wish to view those parenting styles as exactly morally equivalent, then trying to point out the obvious and substantial differences would be a waste of my time.

#125 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 01:36 PM:

Julia,
Several airlines (including American and British Airways) have been applying the "no cabin baggage (with only a few specific exceptions)" rule to flights from the US to the UK. I think there is some kind of legal requirement to apply the rule for flights leaving the UK, and for internal flights in the UK. But there's no rule *against* an airline using it anywhere else, if they feel like it.

Lucy,
It's not that books are dangerous, specifically. These lunatics believe it is more dangerous to allow more stuff into the passenger compartment, because if there is more stuff that makes it harder to inspect every bit of it and control it minutely. So they say you can bring your ticket and ID, and medicine you might need to take on the flight, and glasses (no case) or contact lenses (they let you bring a case for those, but no solution for cleaning them, and no eyedrops.) You can bring a bottle for a baby or a sippycup for a toddler. Oh. And you can bring tampons, sanitary napkins, or diapers; tissues, or a handkerchief, but all those kinds of things have to be unwrapped. (They don't want uncontrolled bodily fluids, especially because they're not allowing liquid soap or hand sanitizing gels.) Let someone have a book? Or a pen and notebook? That's unnecessary clutter, more stuff that gets hard to control -- who knows what a person could hide in there?

BTW, "these lunatics" refers to the people writing the rules, not the ones trying to blow up the planes.

#126 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 01:44 PM:

I can't wait for the day when they prevent me from bringing my own reading material on board.

#127 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 01:45 PM:

Somewhere in the back of my mind I have the idea that more people have died on airplanes because of bombs in checked bags than because of stuff in carry-ons. Probably wrong, but...

And just exactly how many containers-hidden-in-lipsticks/handlotions/toothpaste tubes would you need to build a viable bomb while flying?

#128 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 01:55 PM:

For those of you you might not have seen the Boing Boing link, the best thing I have read recently on the terrorist issue is this article, aptly titled A False Sense of Insecurity (PDF), which details how little risk there is as a result of terrorism and how we are abjectly failing to reflect this in how we are spending our tax dollars. Cory Doctorow summed it up thusly, "The point of terrorism is to create terror, and by cynically convincing us that our very countries are at risk from terrorism, our politicians have delivered utter victory to the terrorists: we are terrified."

But those of us who aren't terrified, and still want to fly, and understand the cost-benefit ratios, still have a problem - how do we, as citizens, change the 'closing the barn door after the horse' mentality? (The 9/11 hijackers used boxcutters? Okay, no small sharp objects. Jose Padilla (laughably) had a shoe bomb. Okay, now we'll check all shoes. The UK bombers tried to use liquids? Okay, no more liquids. None of these things make us any safer now.) And I don't think not flying is going to do it; at best, this would cut down leisure travel, and the airlines understand that most of their money comes from business travellers who don't necessarily have other options than to fly (this reliance on business travel is why I'd be deeply surprised if laptops become routinely banned in carry-on luggage). How do we convey the message that we understand that this is security theatre and that we would prefer the money to go to real security (police work, better medical systems, better emergency responses), thanks? Since the people who are making the decisions about implementing security policy are not the ones bearing the costs, how do we move them out of CYA mode and into the land of rational decisions?

I kind of like Erik V. Olsen's 'coward' and 'not coward' flights, although I'd prefer to call them 'rationally understand risks' and 'irrational about risks' lines, since it's not about being brave, it's about knowing that you don't have to be brave. Although I have to admit that, if I were on a long-haul flight where I was denied access to my iPod, laptop, and reading materials, I'd be praying for a terrorist attack to relieve the monotony.

#129 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 02:11 PM:

Since the people who are making the decisions about implementing security policy are not the ones bearing the costs, how do we move them out of CYA mode and into the land of rational decisions?

This is a fundamental problem, not just with security, but can go into any government function, and I'd sure like to see a solution myself. That's sort of a basic flaw of government design, really.

Congress doesn't pay for the war. They bill the voters, have them serve in the military, and then rake in political contributions and perks from the oil industry.

Congress doesn't pay for copyright terms. They create a monopoly that bills the public, and then rake in political contributiosn and perks from Disney, MPAA, and RIAA.

Government is basically a role that requires trust, and division of power, checks and balances, and all that, serve to ensure that trust isnt' abused. But maybe a completely un-abusable government design is like a completely bomb-proof airliner: you could design it, but it would never get off the ground.

I think maybe sometimes it just comes down to getting people to see the abuse. But to see it, poeple can't be in panic mode. And when the government abuse is inducing panic so people don't think straight, and so they defer power to the government, well, then you've got a special challenge.

#130 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 02:16 PM:

The main lyric of the song Mitch Benn performed on The Now Show on BBC Radio 4 (just finished airing, but taped yesterday) was "They're doing everything they can except, anything which could help." So someone with access to the British national media is willing to point out that what's happening is security theater. Of course, The Now Show is Radio 4's topical satirical comedy show, so that's one outlet where I expect it. They must have re-written most of yesterday's script very quickly.

What bothers me is that we, as a society, are behaving in the same way that causes people to pass on urban legends and chain letters.

#131 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 02:32 PM:

"I'm not willing to settle for just keeping things from getting worse, I want these insane, pointless regulations rescinded. How do we go about doing that?"

I'll start by keeping things from getting worse, thank you very much. Getting the regs rescinded...actually, you know a Democratic government might help; some of this looniness is coming from the top. Ultimately, of course, peace is the answer, but I do not expect to see it my lifetime.

#132 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 02:41 PM:

John Rogers NAILS IT with one blow of his mighty Hammer of Snark, over at Kung Fu Monkey.

#133 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 02:45 PM:

Debcha, Richard Reid (Reed?) was the shoe bomber, not Jose Padilla. Jose Padilla is the American citizen imprisoned by BushCo for wanting to blow up a bridge, if one believes them, which I don't. Note: he has never been charged with any terrorist activity; when they finally, reluctantly got around to filing charges against him, the charges were, as I recall, pretty Mickey Mouse. What they wanted to do was keep him locked up indefinitely without charging him with anything. Amazingly, Scotus said they couldn't.

As for moving the powers that be into the land of "rational decisions" (your phrase) -- they are making completely rational decisions when one recognizes their real goal, which is to keep the American public terrified until November. Terror works for them, politically.

Cynical? Gosh, no, I'm not cynical at all...

#134 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 02:50 PM:

I want to remain optimistic that the paraphernalia surrounding airplane travel may someday, given enough sanity, return to at least a pre-9/11 state.

But who wants to be the politician known for lobbying to "make air travel less safe"?

It's like sodomy laws--no one wanted to be known as the politician who repealed them, regardless how much common sense repealing them makes. That's why it took a Supreme Court case to do it. But I don't know what an air travel parallel to Texas v. Lawrence could possibly look like.

Like others, I'm growing increasingly reluctant to submit to the indignities surrounding air travel. And I've fallen in love with travel by train. But forecasts for Amtrak are dire. (cf. the photocopied pleas for letters to representatives that are being distributed at the Salt Lake City depot and elsewhere.) What can be done to help reverse the trend of disappearing passenger rail? Heck, I'd be pleased if they could just reintroduce a north-south route through Denver.

Alternatively, I could work on my pilot training and hope someday to be able to afford a plane of my own. Amtrak is more affordable at the moment.

#135 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 02:53 PM:

On the subject of nitrocellulose, I remember reading in Omni in the early eighties that the discovery was made by a chemist who spilled some acids then mopped them up with his wife's new cotton apron, then washed it and hung it up to dry in front of the oven. It blew up his kitchen.

If that's all it takes, why bother with a book when you can blow up a plane with properly treated pair of jeans and a T-shirt? Of course, it also brings to mind the image of a terrorist being someone running out of the airline restroom in his underwear shouting, "In the name of Allah, I burn my 501s!"

#136 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 02:57 PM:

Ooops. Sorry. Padilla didn't want to blow up a bridge -- he wanted to make a dirty bomb. Or not. Some other loony wanted to take a blowtorch to the support struts of the Brooklyn Bridge. (Yeah, that'll work.) Can't keep 'em straight.

What I don't get is, why the f*ck is everyone so scared? We live with terrible risks. I live several blocks from a major fault line that is one day (tomorrow?) gonna whack my house. I drive on a California freeway, for Christ's sake. Daily. Often. I take strong prescription medicines that might malfunction. My next door neighbor might own a gun, how the f*ck do I know? No, I'm not flying on a plane tomorrow, but if I were, confiscating my seat-mate's shampoo is not going to make me feel better or the plane safer.

Books? They're confiscating books?

It's wacko.

#137 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 02:58 PM:

Stefan, thank you for that link! (ROFLMAO)

#138 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 02:59 PM:

Dave Bell--

My IT guy tells me that any computer equipment in checked luggage is *not* covered by the airline's insurance. They break it, you suck it up.

Rich--

No security check can ever tell what one is going to do in the future--even in such a near future as "when I walk away from the TSA guy and go find my gate." If it's about telling the future then we might as well give them all up.

#139 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:06 PM:

Bush seeks political gains from foiled plot. (Via the Kung Fu Monkey post Stefan linked.)

"The comments were purely and simply a reaction" to Democratic voters who "removed a pro-defense Senator and sent the message that the party would not tolerate candidates with such views," said Snow.
[...]
"I'd rather be talking about this than all of the other things that Congress hasn't done well," one Republican congressional aide told AFP on condition of anonymity because of possible reprisals.

#140 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:11 PM:

What can be done to reverse the trend?

Transportation Safety Administration
601 South 12th Street
Arlington, VA 22202-4220

Keep those cards and letters coming!

#141 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:21 PM:

I can't believe some idiot told George R.R. Martin to keep his political opinions to himself, while said idiot is waiting for Martin's next book. Does he think books are written in a (non-political) vacuum?

#142 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:22 PM:

Kung fu monkey made me blow soda out my nose with this:

FDR: Oh, I'm sorry, was wiping out our entire Pacific fleet supposed to intimidate us? We have nothing to fear but fear itself, and right now we're coming to kick your ass with brand new destroyers riveted by waitresses. How's that going to feel?

Oh man, good stuff.

#143 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:22 PM:

From Kung Fu Monkey, to encourage you to go there. Links elsewhere.

FDR: Oh, I'm sorry, was wiping out our entire Pacific fleet supposed to intimidate us? We have nothing to fear but fear itself, and right now we're coming to kick your ass with brand new destroyers riveted by waitresses. How's that going to feel?

Go have a laugh, you need one.

#144 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:23 PM:

Hi Greg.

#145 ::: Tuxedo Slack ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:26 PM:

But if you wish to view those parenting styles as exactly morally equivalent, then trying to point out the obvious and substantial differences would be a waste of my time.

Greg, dude, you took the words right out of my mouth in a way that left friction burns on my tongue.

I want these insane, pointless regulations rescinded. How do we go about doing that?

Every answer I can think of would be illegal to advocate, Juli.

#146 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:29 PM:

Thanks Adrian--is that in response to reversing the trend of air travel security hooplah, or reversing the trend of disappearing passenger rail? I'm guessing the former...?

#147 ::: dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:31 PM:

I find the TSA's slogan quite amusing TSA ... Vigilant, Effective, Efficient.

Someone mentioned upthread the Catch-22 spin from catching the terrorists as opposed to a terrorist event. Perhaps the fear-inducing Right rhetoric needs to be fought with Right rhetoric from a different time period: call 'em all Stalinist commies. Instead of comparing them to Nazi Germany, use 1948 Russia. It may not get far, but it might get more folk wondering about the direction the Right is actually heading.

I also love the idea of a Democrat getting on something like O'Reilly for a debate. They'd listen to the rant "You hate America if you don't want more security!", nod, then stare icily across the table and quietly growl "coward".

Of course, I'd like there to be pony unicorns and pot-of-gold rainbows too.

#148 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:41 PM:

What I don't get is, why the f*ck is everyone so scared? We live with terrible risks. I live several blocks from a major fault line that is one day (tomorrow?) gonna whack my house. I drive on a California freeway, for Christ's sake.

This may be my own personal nuttiness around this, but it seems that in movies and books and horror stories (and even the news), there is something inherently more evil about a danger that has some consciousness behind it that makes it out to get you. Compare this to an earthquake fault, or a hurricane, which isn't a thinking monster, its just a force of nature, and so isn't as scary, because it isn't after you personally.

The shark in "Jaws" however, had a grudge, it thought, it was plotted, it hid and attacked with intent. It was out to wreak havoc.

If you took "Jaws" and rewrote it so that the shark was something mindless, like, say, a jellyfish, or a huge collection of jellyfish, it wouldn't be as scary to viewers, because the jellyfish don't think, they aren't out to get you personally, they're just doing their thing, and if you touch them, someone's going to be peeing on your leg if you don't die first.

Imagine a movie about killer tornadoes, and the fear isn't the same. Unless it was a Stephen King inspired tornado, a storm that was out to get the hero, that followed him as he moved around and tried to run away, that showed intent, etc.

Terrorists are out to get us personally, narratively speaking. they plot and plan and scheme and attack without notice with intent to do harm. And its seems that part of the narrative makes them that much more scary to some. They aren't a fault-line or a tornado or a huricane. They're the narative equivalent of werewolves, and zombies, and vampires, and "Jaws", and even "Aliens". Monsters with just enough intelligence and consciousness to think and scheme.

It's a very odd thing, though, when you consider how many people were hurt by Katrina versus how many people were hurt by a foiled terror plot, that people can react with more fear towards the foiled plot than the hurricane, simply because the terrorists had intent.

#149 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:42 PM:

I find the TSA's slogan quite amusing TSA ... Vigilant, Effective, Efficient.

Yes, as when they shut down one of the busiest airports in the world because they couldn't tell a computer test from the real thing. (I was flying that day, and getting to the counter, from the counter to the security line, and from the security line to the appropriate concourse involved a great deal of bulling my way through and hoping my wife could keep up. Then, the next day I was on a panel in Chicago wearing the same clothes I had on the previous day because our checked luggage kept being flown back to Atlanta.)

#150 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:43 PM:

What can be done to reverse the trend?

I still say embarrass Bush on public TV. All he can say about those pictures of security agents pouring confiscated liquid into trash cans is "We'll look into that." That should start the ball rolling in newspapers. It's such an obvious contradiction that they can't claim pouring the stuff into the trash is really safe.

All Bush can do to answer, if those pictures are publicized, is promise to waste more money--by directing security agents to act as though the confiscated liquid really is dangerous. In the meantime, the point that the TSA doesn't know what it's doing will be so obvious that even TV newsheads and renegade Republicans shouldn't be able to ignore it. Once it becomes obvious *to the general public* that the TSA is a farce, the media may be willing to challenge the political metastructure behind the scare campaign -- or even begin considering that the whole thing is a fraud, just like WMDs in Iraq.

#151 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:43 PM:

Hi Lizzy.

Don't we have to say "jinx" or something now?
I forget the rules about simultaneous posting/speaking.

;)

#152 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:49 PM:

Kevin Andrew Murphy - The Mythbusters tried turning a pair of jeans into gun cotton. They spontaneously combusted. Probably not feasible, besides, they'd catch the wearer for being just plain stinky.

#153 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:50 PM:

If there's something to distract us from...watch Lebanon...watch Israel.

I bloody hope and pray that I am wrong!

#154 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:53 PM:

From Billmon.

What can I say? We're stuck to our own flypaper. Which means that phony or not, today's hysteria probably is an authentic glimpse at the shape of things to come. We're going to have to get used to the idea of standing in two-hour lines at airport security and toting our carry-on items in a clear plastic bags. But these inconveniences are absurdly insignificant compared to other risks we'll face if we remain on the road we're on -- the one that leads to that clash of civilizations the uberhawks are clamoring for.

He makes the point, again, that blowing up the homes of frightened strangers in Iraq is not going to make "the terrorists" less pissed off.

#155 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:54 PM:

Apparently, th model which is being touted is Philippine Airlines Flight 434, an incident in which a terrorist assembled a very small bomb, and left it under a seat. It wasn't enough to down the plane. It did kill the passenger in the seat on the next leg of the flight.

The bomb was assembled from a small container of nitroglycerin, a modified digital watch, and a couple of pieces of wire.

There's no suggestion that nitroglycerin was manufactured on the plane.

Nitroglycerin is sensitive stuff, but not so insanely dangerous that it was unusable. I hesitate to claim that The Wages of Fear is realistic, but you have to do a bit more than just give it a mean look.

Reports of "Oplan Bojinka" are vague on the technicalities, but acetone is mentoned, which can be used as a stabiliser for nitroglycerin. There are varying mentions of other components.

The actual explosion on Flight 434 would, on some models of 747, have been over a fuel tank.

The descriptions of nitroglycerin have a resemblance to sesame seed oil, but the comparisons of explosive power seem to be by weight rather than volume. However, it is apparently denser than water.

A typical sports-drink bottle in Europe is a half-litre, and that would be enough explosive to bring down an airliner.

#156 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:56 PM:

I find the TSA's slogan quite amusing TSA ... Vigilant, Effective, Efficient.

Ohmygawsh! It's VEE for Vendetta.

#157 ::: milesawaygirl ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 03:59 PM:

Madeline / Erik - further quotes from John Reid, from the link posted by Steven Brust: http://wsws.org/articles/2006/aug2006/lond-a11.shtml

In the face of what he called “probably the most sustained period of severe threat since the end of the second world war,” Reid decried those who “don’t get it,” blaming them for the fact that “we remain unable to adapt our institutions and legal orthodoxy as fast as we need to.”

Making it clear that the required “adaptation” meant the gutting of traditional democratic rights, he added: “Sometimes we may have to modify some of our own freedoms in the short term in order to prevent their misuse and abuse by those who oppose our fundamental values and would destroy all of our freedoms in the modern world.”

So, we'll kill freedom to save freedom - ah, that classic cognitive dissonance.

A 2008 target for the introduction of ID cards is being dropped because the Home Office hasn't a clue how to make it all work properly

See:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/08/04/sci-tech_id_committee/
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/07/09/st_id_cards_doomed_emails/

But the government still seem intent on going ahead with it in the long run. For example:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/08/07/brown_id_expansion/

Actually, I was thinking that the timing of the airline plot arrests is also convenient for the ID scheme. When pressed, ministers have to concede that ID cards aren't much use against terrorism, but a fearful public can make the connection all by themselves: we are told the threat level is 'critical' and we are shown that the terrorists are on our doorsteps, and a lot of people will leap to the conclusion that an ID register keeping track of everyone is a Good Idea. Not to mention detention without trial and all sorts of other measures.

Keir: "Blair is too canny an operator to risk it all for so little."

I think Blair cares more about his standing with the Bush administration than about his standing with the British people. He went to war for Bush in the face of huge public opposition. His lies and deceptions over Iraq have been uncovered, he's still there.

The more I see Teflon Tony ride all these scandals out, the more I can't help believing that he'll stay in power as long as it suits whoever or whatever is backing him. Though when Gordon Brown takes over we'll all think that a real change has happened, simply because Brown has kept his head down & nose clean.

Whenever Blair leaves office, he'll get a lucrative career in some Bechtel-like monster corporation and rake it in as an after-dinner speaker at elite functions over in the USA. He knows he's all set whatever happens. That's my gut feeling.

Plus, the backdrop of a foiled terrorist plot would make any leader look good. We caught the terrorists, yay! Look the terrorists are real, be afraid. He's good at looking all stern and serious.

He wouldn't be risking much. The reports about these arrests sound more substantial than alerts that have melted quietly away in the past (deploying tanks at Heathow in 2003, and more recently the ricin plot that never was), but it's still interesting to speculate about the timing of the arrests and publicity.



#158 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 04:15 PM:

Dave Bell: Still Life with Woodpecker gives a recipe for a bomb made from older decks of cards. I've never tested it. Some of the others given work, but perhaps not with the oomph a person actually trying to blow things up might want.

Others are just a tad impractical.

TK

#159 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 04:18 PM:

I kind of like Erik V. Olson's 'coward' and 'not coward' flights, although I'd prefer to call them 'rationally understand risks' and 'irrational about risks' lines, since it's not about being brave, it's about knowing that you don't have to be brave.

That's a losing answer. This is politics, you play politics.

The right answer to OMG TERRORISTS! is "Why are you such a coward?" Don't play naming games. When you stab someone, you stab in the back, you stab hard, and you aim for the heart.

It is quite simple. Anyone who thinks that they need this so called security to be safe to fly is a coward. Why are they so afraid, I can't tell you, but they are cowards.

Make them walk through the "I am a coward" line. Make them wear a badge that clearly indicated that they have been carefully searched to ensure that they have no weapons, so other cowards can feel safer if they are near by. Have them escorted by armed guards, so they feel safer. I don't have a problem with that.

Just as long as that badge says "COWARD" in big letters -- and, of course, they pay for all that extra security they require.

By the way, this latest version isn't even security theatre. This is politics, pure and simple. Both Blair and Bush are deeply afraid (because they are both cowards to the core) that we aren't afraid enough. We're asking questions, and insisting on answers. They can't survive this, so they're ramping up the fear.

That's why I won't fly anymore. It's not just kotowing to the cowards anymore. It's an effort to make sure that we stay cowards, and the right answer it to tell them to fuck off. If I can't fly with a bottle of shampoo in my bag, because you're trying to keep the cowards afraid, then I won't fly.

I won't act like the coward anymore. The airlines and the Federal Government won't get my money, and more importantly, they won't get my implicit assent to cowardice.

So, you cowards go ahead and beg for new rules, so you'll feel safe flying. Hell, I'll help make them up! Every passenger now needs to be wrapped in at least a 4" thick layer of bubble wrap, in case of turbulence.

You will need to present Photo ID, your tax forms for the last three years, and an immunization record to the TSA officals before entering the mangentometer.

All passengers are required to wear yellow in the secured area.

Just as long as you know what they are -- Cowards.

#160 ::: Electric Landlady ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 04:21 PM:

*wipes eyes* I adore Kung Fu Monkey.

Emily, I too thought that insulin was prescription-only, but I just checked the CPS and in fact it is not, at least in Canada. One of my other references observes that you may need a prescription to get your insurance company to reimburse you for it, however.

I have been bitter and cynical about airport/airline security ever since Delta confiscated a pair of tweezers from me. Yeah, they were pointy, but come on -- if you really think I look like the kind of person who can hijack an aircraft with a pair of tweezers, why are you letting me on the plane? With a ballpoint pen?

#161 ::: Electric Landlady ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 04:27 PM:

(hm. It occurs to me that people who use insulin pumps, which have both batteries AND mysterious liquids, may find flying a huge hassle from now on.)

#162 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 04:37 PM:

On knitting needles: two stories I've met, form people who wouldn't travel without their knitting. One used water-color brushes of the right diameter as needles - brushes weren't banned by that airline, although needles were. The other rolled up paper strips, pulled them out into long narrow cones, coated the cones with several layers of white glue, and used those with her knitting.

Knitters are creative.

#163 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 04:38 PM:

I think it's just going to be really hard to keep someone on the plane from doing something to bring the plane down or kill lots of people. As suicide attacks go, taking down even a relatively small passenger plane is a pretty good outcome for the bomber.

I agree with Erick Olsen--I'd like to see airlines allowed to compete on tightness of security. Over here is El Al--they're really serious about security, but you will spend three hours getting through, longer if you look Arab. Over here is High Risk Tolerance Air. They have a locked cockpit door and an explosive charge on board under the control of someone on the ground to keep the plane from being used as a missile, and otherwise no security at all. Why should everyone who flies be forced to live with the same security level? Once you make sure the plane can't be crashed into a building by the hijackers, all the rest is people making their own risk-tolerance decisions and living (or not) with them.

#164 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 04:47 PM:

The TSA's new slogan: "To Serve and Obey, And Guard Men From Harm".

#165 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 04:48 PM:

(hm. It occurs to me that people who use insulin pumps, which have both batteries AND mysterious liquids, may find flying a huge hassle from now on.)

Diabetics have been given the short shrift by the inane security regulations for a while now. A friend of mine needs to have his insulin and his needles with him at all times. He can't afford not to have them with him just so people around him can have some illusion of greater safety. (Actually, the show of security theater is really there to encourage public fear, but you get the point.)

If we combine this with the security regulation that passengers are not allowed to leave their seats when the plane is within 30 minutes of Washington, DC, bad things happen. I doubt that he's the only diabetic who forced to remain in his seat, under penalty of law, when all he wanted to do was take his insulin injection with some privacy.

#166 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 04:51 PM:

Greg: But earthquake faults are malicious and do go after you personally; didn't you see "10.5"? The chasm being opened up by the earthquake followed the train tracks until it ate the train, and then it stopped.

It was on TV, it must be true.

#167 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 04:59 PM:

Lucy,
It's possible to be worried about airplane water because of a study a few months ago that found bacteria in water samples. Of course I assume that airlines have been trying to clean it up, but changes take time.

If you'll be relying on the airplane's water, then perhaps having a water filter drinking straw could be useful.

I'd also bring an empty container and stock up on water as soon as you're onboard, right after you've explained to the cabin crew your daughter's medical need for water.

If they have bottled water I'm sure they'll give you some or let you fill your container. However, I've read (on a fairly reliable website) that airlines aren't necessarily able to load more water. Otherwise load up on tap water: most widebodies have water dispensers (looks like a refrigerator water dispenser, without the fridge) outside or inside the food prep area.

#168 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 05:06 PM:

Sarah S (way up there): I fly between 50 and 75 thousand miles a year, every year, for work. ... My colleagues all travel just as much as I do. There is no way to do our job without travel, and lots of it.

If air travel becomes increasingly difficult and time-consuming due to anti-terrorism precautions (or theater), how long will business models like that will be able to survive?

#169 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 05:40 PM:

Things will be modified as a matter of business models.

I expect that the "Duty Free Shops" and all the other businesses that survive on the basis of being there in the airport will get moved inside the security cordon. Nobody wants to buy wine or perfume and have it get smashed in their luggage, or worse, have to pour it in the garbage. The assorted "food court" items they sell in the departure area will likewise have to get approved for taking on the plane.

Yes, there's the business of the bombers planning to reconstitute their gel explosives using the UK Gatorade equivalent, but I'm certain that urine would work just as well. Chug a super Big Gulp before you go on the plane, whiz into your TSA approved zip-lock bag, add the nitroglycerin suppositories you hid up your butt before getting on the plane, shake. That's about all you'd need. I briefly entertained the possibility of doing a fancy bit of hiding the liquid explosives in breast implants and then extracting them with an insulin syringe, but that's needlessly complicated. Anything you can reconstitute into an explosive with Gatorade you should be able to reconstitute with pee, and as for the rest of the parts, people have hid amazing things up their butt.

Of course, the only thing I really expect to happen is more complimentary beverages and reading materials on flights.

#170 ::: dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 05:45 PM:

VEE for Vendetta

*snorfle* Owwwww!

#171 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 06:01 PM:

You know I can't be the only one looking at all those crowds of people waiting to go through security and thinking - Hey, that's the place to plant the bomb!

I mean, it's so simple my kitten could sort it out.

A. Set up a cell with a reasonable plot and sacrifice it.

B. Everyone gets hyper about security and there are huge lines to get through security checkpoints.

C. Bomb the crowds in the lines.

D. For extra points arrange for more bombs to go off twenty minutes later, in the middle of the first response teams' arrival.

I can't be that smart, can I? I haven't even suggested anything that hasn't happened in some form or another. I've just put it in a sequence for maximum carnage, I think.

I think though, this may be why the Brits don't want you bringing anything through the security check. Everything they have to check makes the line take longer and increases the crowd - even things like books & magazines.

I think another reason that the Brits aren't letting anything go on is that one of the guys they caught had an all-areas pass at Heathrow - which means that he could have stashed stuff past the security gates for someone else to pick up later.

Maybe this will ease up once they've got the entire ring and had a chance to run a sweep through Heathrow.

#172 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 06:06 PM:

mrloco: hey, that's right! I would love to hear from anyone traveling with fountain pens whether they had to throw out or empty their cartridges/converters, or whether the TSA security peeps didn't even notice 'em.

I'm already a little peeved about having to check my ink bottles--they have a tendency to begin to ooze if in an uncompressurized compartment.

(It's like knitting needle conversations at the local fiber arts shop shortly after 9/11: "Well, I got through with my Pony Pearls, so far so good!" "My Crystal Palace dps were fine." "They yanked my JP Coats right out of my knitting! It all unravelled!")

(I am envisioning an Amtrak TV advertisement that contrasts footage of people at airport security arches losing their bottled water, knitting needles, books, etc. with footage of train passengers relaxing with water, knitting, books, etc. Show a photo of the "No Joking Here!" sign at the Baltimore/Washington International airport contrasted with a rail passenger engaging in jovial small-talk with the conductor in the station. That sort of thing.)

#173 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 06:16 PM:

Okay, so it appears only people flying out of the two London International airports are not allowed to bring books. Man, that'd stop me going right there. Eleven hours on a plane and no books? Fuggedaboutit.

Greg, you may be right that the reason we tend to fear the terrorists more than, for example, I fear the Hayward Fault, is that the terrorists are indeed out to get some of us (though not necessarily me, or you) whereas the Hayward Fault has no personal intent (that I'm aware of. Others may disagree.) But this fear of the terrorists is being FED, being directed, orchestrated, by BushCo. and his favorite media outlets. There is no logical reason why a man on a plane out of LAX should feel safer because the woman in the seat next to him has been forced to leave her shampoo, or her water bottle, at home. But everything the administration and Fox News is saying is designed to make people fear and not think about anything.

#174 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 06:32 PM:

Margaret,

LAX had exactly the problem you described: long, long lines outside of security.

this essay summarizes a 2004 Rand study on this. The guy arrested in 1999 with plans and equipment to attack LAX was planning to attack crowds in front.

#175 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 06:34 PM:

If, for some reason, books and other reading materials are banned from flights on an extended basis:

Sing "99 Bottles of Beer" during the flight, and encourage others to join in.

If enough people participate, the Pilots' and Flight Attendents' Unions will either move to lift the ban or demand free earplugs.

#176 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 07:27 PM:

Well, next thing for the terrorists to do is figure out a way to destroy a plane with nothing but in-flight liquor, a complimentary blanket, and some bit-off fingernails. Then they'll stop giving those out, and make everybody chew their nails off in front of the checkers before they go on the plane.

I will not wallow in fear. Fear is the mindkiller, the small death which destroys thought and elects Republicans.

#177 ::: Ilya Popov ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 08:12 PM:

Martin, in one of his earlier LJ posts, made a very cogent point, that needs to be faced by more people:
"The world is a hazardous place...A police state is always safer than a free country, so long as you stay on the right side of those police."

There's no way I can advise people to simply cope with their fear without sounding like a bit of a burk, but it is the attitude I maintain.

#178 ::: SoonerThought ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 08:23 PM:

Precautions are understandable, but really, where does it stop? I am fully willing to sign a form that says I understand flying is risky and that I will take my chances with reasonable security precautions. How about you?

What I am not willing to do is sacrifice my dignity for ridiculous personal searches which add hours to the airport check-in. I am just not willing to get on this slippery slope to eventually losing all personal liberties–right down to having a cup of Starbucks on the overcrowded, smelly, poorly-operated planes I must ride.

I know, I know, If I don’t like it I can just drive; and I do drive now, whenever possible. But you and I know that airliners are simply indispensable for most business and vacation travel.

Therefore, I offer this: Life is risky. Suck it up.

#179 ::: Ilya Popov ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 08:29 PM:

And apparently US citizens (and US citizens only?) are occasionally made to sign forms when travelling internationally which indicate where they've been, names, etc. Apparently citizens cannot board planes (or at least not everywhere) unless they've filled out these forms (or form).

(Flying is fun!)

#180 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 10:05 PM:

Debcha writes:

For those of you you might not have seen the Boing Boing link, the best thing I have read recently on the terrorist issue is this article, aptly titled A False Sense of Insecurity (PDF), which details how little risk there is as a result of terrorism and how we are abjectly failing to reflect this in how we are spending our tax dollars.

Quite interesting, but I was distracted by this:

John Mueller holds the Woody Hayes Chair of National Security Studies at the Mershon
Center at Ohio State University.

The Woody Hayes.

Chair of National Security Studies.

#181 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 10:07 PM:

Anyone else noticing the elitist-sounding assumptions attached to statements on how we should not have carry-on luggage? In various essays and comments I'm seeing statements about how people don't *need* carry-on luggage. Or how in the old days flyers didn't need water-bottles, laptops, and roller-luggage, thus today people are wimps.

The Manly Men of old simply boarded, took a swig of scotch and a seconal, and then stoically endured the 10 hour flights, evidently.

I'm thinking this attitude against carry-on luggage is elitist because ordinary travellers need carry-on. Unless and until checked luggage has only a tiny risk of theft or delay, people need to carry essentials with them.

For example, when you only get a few days for a vacation, then you can't afford to wait by the airport for luggage with critical items inside to show up.

#182 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 10:09 PM:

I wonder what TSA/DHS would say if I suggested that the bins of shampoo/lotion/toothpaste/sealed water bottles they take from people boarding planes be moved to the arrival gates, where the people getting off planes can pick it up to replace the stuff that was taken from them.

Nah. Too logical.

#183 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 10:24 PM:

I am the daughter of an airline pilot. I've been going places on airplanes since before I can remember. We always had books and toys, especially on the long flights. I'm not so sure we always had beverages because there were steward..... oops, flight attendants to get you a drink of water if you needed one or other such, plus meals and other perks that have been shaved away in the need for saving money/pushing all the money to the bottom line for the shareholders. Even though we were 'deadheaders' we were always treated well if we were on the plane (the only downside I recall is that unless we bought a first-class surcharge, $10 when I aged out of the system, was getting bumped for a paying customer. Which was okay.).

#184 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 10:32 PM:

Lizzy L: Debcha, Richard Reid (Reed?) was the shoe bomber, not Jose Padilla.

You're right, of course. Mea culpa. And good catch - thanks.

#185 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 11:33 PM:

Terry K, wrt Dave: Dickson's story made clear that the cards were deliberately gimmicked: developed on the frontier worlds, sold not just as a returning souvenir but in stores in the homeworlds (so people could imagine they were tough frontiersmen with their tough frontier decks?), and for lagniappe coming with a detonator in the seal.

Dickson was a nice guy, but a real ASF nut on "frontier virtues" and IMO not particularly strong on either technology or personal relationships.

#186 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2006, 11:53 PM:

I'm wondering what precisely is being done with the ultra rich or even the mildly well off. It's common--even in the current day--for ultra-nice complete sets of women's luggage to come with a jewelry case. Unless you're going to wear all your wealth on your person, one assumes that even Paris Hilton is not going to fly wearing twelve rings, eight necklaces, nine bracelets, five watches and a tiara. Since that stuff's valuable, however, you don't keep it in your checked luggage. It goes on board.

Hell, I'm a guy and even I've gone to a convention with multiple changes of jewelry to go with different outfits. You're not allowed to wear one oversized watch--can you wear four regular size watches? I may look like a fruitbat doing it, but it seems a reasonable enough form of protest and I trust myself better than the luggage monkeys.

Computers also get wrecked by the security toys. I had my Jornada handheld get fried by San Jose International's mega-magnets, but luckily it was covered under warranty. Unfortunately, HP told me that I could in the future ask for it to be given a hand inspection, which I did, but then the TSA changed it's mind so asking for a hand inspection just got my new one x-rayed as well and they gave me a pat down for being so rude as to ask. Though I did at least get to take out the flash memory before it went through.

I've not taken it on any flights since. While computers can sometimes go safely through the scanners, the sides of some of the scanners have mega-magnets which fry data.

#187 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 12:25 AM:

I'm also already a little over-tired of hearing people righteously declare that they'll never fly again.

Actually, I very carefully did not say I'd never fly again, just as I have very carefully not said I'm not travelling to the US ever again.

Things come up.

I am, however, doing the work to find alternatives wherever humanly possible, and will keep doing so, because I no longer desire to do these things.

And, you know, if some people can't afford not to make those choices, well, those of us who can are doubly bound to, in my opinion.

I don't suggest to people on very limited incomes that they buy fair trade food and clothing, eithger, but I do it myself to help build up the market, so that eventually the price will come down. Which it is now doing.

As for 'they're just doing their jobs', well, they are, in fact, doing their jobs.

They are underpaid, overworked, inadequately trained, hired mostly from a pool of people whose employment options are few, from what I've seen.

Also, they are not permitted to make exceptions to the rules and they ARE permitted to hurt or arrest me.

I have some experience at non violent civil disobedience, and the strategy in that situation is Don't Be There, or else comport yourself in such a way as to not make them your enemy.

I'll save my rage for people who ARE able to change the rules and are NOT able to hurt or arrest me, and for agitiating for better labour conditions for airport security workers.

Including the right to, you know, think on the job without losing their income.

#188 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 12:54 AM:

ajay, I've carried on a 60-lb suitcase. It was full of books, and the airline would have charged me a lot for overweight if I'd checked it. (That's in addition to the cost of insurance since the total value of those books greatly exceeded the amount the airline would pay for stealing them.)

#189 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 01:21 AM:

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little, But who wants to be the politician known for lobbying to "make air travel less safe"? How about being known as the politican who makes air travel more comfortable and efficient?

Back in the 1970's, I once arrived at a terminal (at LAX) at 6:59, with a reservation on a 7:00 flight, and no ticket. The flight left on time. I was on it. So was my luggage.

How many years of human life are wasted each year by the excess waits at airports? Apparently, stealing 150,000 life-years from 3,000 people is somehow much less than stealing several million life-years from a lot more people.

#190 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 02:14 AM:

But this fear of the terrorists is being FED, being directed, orchestrated, by BushCo. and his favorite media outlets.

That's because you don't preemptively strike a fault line. But the prez may need to preemptively strike various assorted boogeymen, generally hiding in countries with strategic American interests.

#191 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 02:19 AM:

not particularly strong on either technology or personal relationships.

That leaves only, er, nothing, that he's strong on?

#192 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 02:24 AM:

one assumes that even Paris Hilton is not going to fly wearing twelve rings ...

er, one assumes that Paris Hilton has her own jet? If she doesn't, and these rules stick around, she will soon enough...

Glasair kit build airplane for 40 grand. seats 4, top speed just over 300 mph. I wish they had something close to that price, but a twin engine.

bake sale this weekend. Come on down...

#193 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 03:18 AM:

My plan is to start up a flying boat service in the Pacific Islands. Main selling point? No security nonsense. No intrusive searches. No hour long queues. Just pure luxury, from one tropical paradise to the next.

#194 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 04:03 AM:
Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little, But who wants to be the politician known for lobbying to "make air travel less safe"? How about being known as the politican who makes air travel more comfortable and efficient?
Well, yeah, but then you and I aren't drinking the Kool-aid. But the opposition is going to spin it as "sacrificing safety for comfort," it'll be swallowed whole by the masses who are already saying "it's inconvenient but better than being blown up," and down it'll go. At least, that's the likely scenario, and what politician wants to take that risk?

But I would totally support the first one to come forward and do just that, if only one would. If only all the arguments made here could be reduced to pithy statements that couldn't be twisted on Fox News.

Gah. Why is it that disinformation and bullhockey fare so much better in the ten-second soundbyte war than rational discourse does?

#195 ::: farang ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 04:18 AM:

As someone who travels frequently, mostly not into US, I can only state how very paranoid my country feels to me upon entering it. Easier to pass customs/immigration in communist China.

I was actually stopped in Hawaii by Customs officer on my way to States last month, because, on the ENTRY card [since when do American need to fill out ENTRY CARDS???], I had left blank the part where it asked WHERE I was going to STAY.

"Where are you going to stay?"

"Excuse me?"

You didn't fill out where you are going to stay."

"I am an American, see, you have my passport in your hand."

"You'll need to fill out where you are going to stay.


OK, so I put "ANY DAMN PLACE I CHOOSE."

And received a sour face, but got through.

#196 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 05:12 AM:

Let me get this straight:

If I were to take one of these flights, I would be expected to leave all reading material behind.

And my toddler wouldn't have the little movie player we blew some bucks on in order to save our sanity and the sanity of all those around us on any flight lasting more than two hours.

And I better pray that I tanked up on enough liquids before I went through security so that I can keep my nursing baby from getting thirsty on the way there. Because they'll be out of everything that hydrates by the time the cart reaches my seat.

And the people sitting six rows away who bottlefeed may or may not have been permitted to bring formula for a baby that is too young even to drink plain water, even if it weren't possibly tainted with bacteria.

And if we were flying between DC and London, I wouldn't even be allowed out of my seat to pee or change an overflowing diaper on the last part of the flight.

You know, I'd feel safer riding Greyhound coast to coast, with their notorious quota of so many nutcases per bus, than flying coach to London with several hundred people being driven slowly insane at 30,000 feet.

#197 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 06:10 AM:

Well, hasn't GWB's motto become, "We have nothing but fear, and fear itself!"

(Once again thinking about how to get an Irish passport and right-to-work in Europe.)

#198 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 06:19 AM:

Buy shares in NetJets. Seriously. (You think this no hand luggage nonsense applies to bizjet charters? The fact that bizjet passengers bypass the whole security/customs circus is what ultimately killed Concorde's economic viability in the post-9/11 era. And with SST bizjets under development, it's the only way to fly -- for those with the money.)

Margaret Organ-Keane: the security checkpoint queue at EDI (Turnhouse, Edinburgh Airport) between 8am and 9am on a normal day involves cramming roughly 500-1000 folks into an open plan room, in long queues with guide ropes between them. No need to sacrifice a cell and cause a special security alert -- just march two suicide bombers in 10 minutes apart, so that #1 detonates at the metal detectors while #2 is waiting back at the entrance to the shed to detonate in the middle of the panicking mass of survivors.

(If you hit five British airports simultaneously you could probably rival the death toll for 9/11 without actually having to breach airport security in the first place.)

Some airports are designed to prevent this. At Schiphol (Amsterdam) for example, there are small security checkpoints at each departure lounge so there's no central chokepoint full of thousands of potential victims. But that'd require a wholesale reconstruction of the airside sections of most airports I've flown through, at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds. Which ain't going to happen unless something bad happens first.

I'm not looking forward to my next UK/US flight (scheduled for mid-November) if the no hand luggage rule is enforced. However, if it is, I intend to catch a short-haul to somewhere in mainland Europe, spend a night in a hotel, then board a direct trans-Atlantic flight (complete with hand luggage). It'll cost a little bit more, but it'll be worth it. And the existence of this loophole is precisely what gives me hope that the current inane UK airport regulations will be relaxed very soon indeed: if they aren't, the main carriers will haemorrhage customers overseas as travel agents start offering connections via continental hubs (with a second check-in for the long-haul sector). The current rule is pure poison for the airline carriers operating in and out of the UK, and the political pressure to relax it will be enormous.

#199 ::: Laina ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 10:36 AM:

And if we were flying between DC and London, I wouldn't even be allowed out of my seat to pee or change an overflowing diaper on the last part of the flight.

I'm pretty sure the rule that required passengers to stay in their seats for the last 30 minutes of the flight into DC was a) only for Reagan National, while most international flights land at Dulles and b) was lifted in 2005.


#200 ::: Ilya Popov ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 11:07 AM:

Question to all the flyers here: When I take a laptop to the aero port with me, what's the risk of the computer getting slagged by the x-ray machines? Of what should I be concerned and how do I avoid letting my laptop get damaged?

#201 ::: Bill O'Rights ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 12:54 PM:

So, I usually travel with my own food - I have food allergies. I usually bring water to drink with my food. Now I can't bring water. Water is a liquid... but only at room temperature. Can I freeze my bottle of water and bring it on board? It's a solid, not a liquid. Can I convert my water to steam and bring it on board?


#202 ::: Thena (staying in Maine, apparently) ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 12:57 PM:

My first brief cynical thought was "How convenient a coincidence it is that just when they'd started charging for food and bev in the cheap seats, and people got around that by bringing their own, whoops! here come the terrorists and you can't bring that on board anymore."

Now I'm starting to wonder how many times I'd have to win the lottery in order to buy a mini-jet and hire a pilot when I needed to go any further than, say, Boston.

#203 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 01:22 PM:

how many times I'd have to win the lottery in order to buy a mini-jet and hire a pilot

hey, maybe we could buy a plane together and split the cost.

#204 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 01:51 PM:

Do intra-USA flights ban e.g. oranges or grapes?

One thing that really steams me is the apparent complete and total lack of imagination/ability to -conceive- of terrorist attack modes, prior to there actually -being- one carried out or caught in the late planning stages.

I've worked as a software tester and worked as a system design and planner, and "what can go wrong/be problems that we have to design/test for?" include "what stupid and/or malicious things are people perhaps going to do that could cause trouble, and let's design/build/test this thing so that it's got some resistance to stupid user tricks and malicious attack."

The braindead lobotomized flatworm asshole religious bigot bimbos running the USA have all the imagination and interest much less ability to look out of their sealed brain closed-mindedness of a toy train on a closed track in a small room... They don't see, aren't interested in, and aren't willing to see anything but their same narrow infinitely repeating track, it's not even so cosmopolitan as tunnelvision!

#205 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 02:26 PM:

the apparent complete and total lack of imagination/ability to -conceive- of terrorist attack modes, prior to there actually -being- one carried out

I don't think that's the problem. I think it's more like the guys who scream that a cat-5 hurricane will wipe out NO, and the politicians see the estimated cost at 5 billion or whatever and balk. And they end up gambling someone else's lives so they can keep paying the pork, etc. Not to mention any multi-billion dollar project has a not-small probability of turning into a boondoggle.

#206 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 02:43 PM:

Greg, Thena:

As it happens, the NYT ran a story on time-sharing jets in the past week. One of the popular systems works just like a rail card, except that it runs $25,000/hour. When was your last IPO?

#207 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 03:01 PM:

Clifton, I was thinking of a GlasairIII, which goes for about fifty-grand. Top speed is just over 300 mph. Of course, it is a kit plane, so I'd have to assemble the damnable thing.

That's two hours on your time-share. The jets will go twice as fast, though. But I can only bake so many brownies at a time, so I think I'll have to stick with a prop-job.

The Moller skycar has a few more years before it's certified and suggested sticker prices are around one-million dollars, which is more brownies than even the Muffin Man can handle.

I still haven't seen any word about a civilian tilt rotor, although the osprey is making some progress...

#208 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 04:35 PM:

Time-sharing jets is called "fractional ownership" - it's what Netjets is about, and others. They should do well out of this terrorism imbroglio. So should Eos Airlines - they fly business-class-only 757s with just 48 seats from New York to London, and I bet they're getting round the carry-on restrictions somehow. Eos only have two planes, though, with a third on order.

There's been a massive increase in bizjet flying since 9/11, with fractional ownership going big. Now there's a new breed of "very light jets" coming out from companies like Adam Aircraft and Eclipse, and even Honda, as well as old airplane builders like Cessna. These VLJs were already being ordered in dozens by air-taxi outfits, even before this week's panic.

#209 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 04:48 PM:

Correction: Eos Airlines is currently under the same carry-on restrictions as other airlines. I guess this is because they use the normal terminals at JFK and London Stansted, whereas the suits (and Hiltons) with Gulfstream and Falcon bizjets use separate facilites and don't mix with the common people.

#210 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 04:54 PM:

Ilya,

Regarding the chance of your laptop getting trashed by airport security and the X-ray machines.

I did a bit of digging and in between chirpy "Everything's fine!" delusions or disinformation, I found this thread, with lots of extra fancy crunchy science explanations of what happens:

http://www.gamedev.net/community/forums/topic.asp?topic_id=291059

Short answer: The newer, fancier, "film safe" x-ray machines should cause no problems with your laptop. (Of course, one of them still fried my Jornada, but did not fry my Jornada's replacement. From what I understand, Jornadas, since they keep data in virtual memory, are more sensitive than other beasts like laptops.) This is, of course, if they're used rightly and properly by trained staff at the airports.

The less fancy, older, non-film-safe x-ray machines, however, can really screw up a laptop, from frying the batteries to nuking the LCD screen to erasing portions of the memory. Especially if run by incompetent people. And that doesn't get into the damage that can be caused by baggage monkeys. I once broke my laptop screen after stepping on it in its case.

As for what the odds of these things happening are, that I can't give you. All I can say is that I once had a handheld fried and lost several days of writing.

#211 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 05:42 PM:

In many years of flying with computers, I've never had one trashed (or even affected) by airport security or X-ray machines.

But dont even think about checking a laptop as hold baggage. The chances of it arriving undamaged (or at all) at your destination are very low. If you can't carry it on, don't take it on your trip.

#212 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 06:03 PM:

A WashPost article about very light jets and how they'll be used. If enough of a network is built, they might be practical for business flights and some personal flights. They take off from smaller airports in the US, so no security (no toilet on some, though, too).

#213 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 06:22 PM:

Suggested names for Erik V Olson's lines: the 'I want to be protected from terrorists' line and the 'the hell if I'll let Osama bin Laden run my life' line. (The latter was suggested for billboards, over at firedoglake, and it seems very appropriate for this!)

#214 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 06:25 PM:

the Very Light Jet in that article is listed at 1.5 million dollars.

That's a lot of brownies.

#215 ::: Tom Womack ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 06:35 PM:

I've just come into London from Krakow; when I checked Easyjet's Web site in the morning they were saying everything was running normally, but at the airport we were told that hand luggage was forbidden on flights to UK, US, Canada and Israel; which given what I'd read about the plot makes rather more sense than forbidding it only on flights out. This makes Charlie Stross's Cunning Plan work less well.

My DSLR, in a standard chunky SLR neck-case, survived the hold without trouble, and I met an interesting character in the check-in line with whom I could chat on the plane rather than finishing Hunter of Worlds, so it could have been a good deal worse.

I think the most disconcerting part was the man at passport check at Luton standing in front of a crowd of passengers carrying an SA80 rifle, but I'd been to visit Auschwitz the previous day and this leaves one with a more visceral distaste for crowds and machine-guns taken together.

#216 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 06:53 PM:

Keir, about that puddle-hopping island airline...

#217 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 06:57 PM:

Oh, and farang, I suspect that wasn't an entry card (as such) you needed to get into Hawai'i, that was a form from our state Dept. of Ag. wanting to know about any possible fruits/flowers you might be bringing in. The tourism bureau piggybacks demographic data requests onto the back of it.

#218 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 07:05 PM:

Greg, I really like your courage vow. One request: could you change it from, "mankind," to "humankind?"

(Please excuse any punctuation errors.)

#219 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2006, 11:09 PM:

Greg London writes:

I still haven't seen any word about a civilian tilt rotor, although the osprey is making some progress...

Behold the Bell-Agusta BA609, a relative of the Osprey, which you may be seeing n your skies one of these days. Here's a nice photo of the first prototype in flight. The second aircraft recently began ground testing.

In the long history of VTOL, we've never had an operational airliner. But there is now hope.

#220 ::: Bill O'Rights ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2006, 03:56 AM:

Why are you quibbling, whilst your masters maniputlate you?

http://etext.virginia.edu/jefferson/quotations/jeff0300.htm

#221 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2006, 05:52 AM:

Greg: very light jets at $1.5M are still cheap. Consider: jets typically have a design life of about 30 years and/or 10,000 flight sectors. That works out at $150 of jet purchase-price per flight when you amortize it over the aircraft's lifetime. If it's a six seater, just $30 of the ticket price is therefore going towards its purchase price.

Airline economics AIUI break down typically on the order of 30/30/30 between airframe costs, fuel, and personnel. There's no reason for a very light jet to be much different. You wouldn't want to own one, but time-sharing it (the same way you effectively hire a limo or a taxi by the minute) is perfectly affordable.

#222 ::: JaniceG ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2006, 05:53 AM:

G Jules wrote: Try being at an airport with people with bullhorns yelling at you that there's a terror threat, and TSA people who ask if you'd rather be SAFE when you ask about whether you'll be able to make your flight, and security teams and dogs and fire response teams -- and not being at least a little bit freaked out. Taking away people's Chap-Stick is idiotic. Absolutely bloody pointless. But I get why it made people feel safer.

*shrug* Maybe if you [generic you] had been at an airport yesterday, in the middle of the freak-out, you'd have been able to tell the television reporter all about what bullshit the whole thing was. But maybe not. It was a scary situation, and the response couldn't have been better-designed to evoke fear. If they had interviewed me yesterday, I might well have been one of the sheep.

I don't doubt that it was an intimidating situation and if I had been in Heathrow Airport where an actual terror threat involving liquid explosives had just been uncovered, I probably would be more understanding about a short-term ban on that sort of material being taken on board.

But outside of that specific scenario, I don't believe that I would have fallen for TSA agents at a domestic US airport trying to intimidate people into believing that the sealed water bottles and personal shampoo and eyedrops that hundreds of thousands of passengers have been carrying on board airplanes for years are all of a sudden such an imminent threat that they require this sort of massive clog in the system and inconvenience to untold numbers of passengers and airport personnel.

If the security organizations really wanted to reassure passengers, what about reminding them that a threat had been caught by police work, there is no evidence that it was wider spread, and people have been flying with water bottles and shampoo for years without any incident? We can't know whether this would be more effective than instant stringent restrictions on whatever the bombers-of-the-minute have chosen as a possible weapon because they're going to go with mass hysteria and overreaction every time...

#223 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2006, 09:56 AM:

Charlie Stross: I'm afraid your investment advice is a bit out-of-date. Warren Buffett bought NetJets outright back in 1998. (Or rather, his holding company, Berkshire Hathaway bought it. You can still buy stock in Berkshire. A single class B share will set you back a mere $3,102 as of market close on Friday --- a bargain compared to the class A shares, which closed at over $93,000. Among Mr. Buffett's quirks is the rather low opinion he has of stock splits...)

#224 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2006, 10:51 AM:

Nancy: Sure. I'll try to change it by tonight, tomorrow night at the latest.

Bill: That looks a long ways from a little Robinson R-22. I was hoping for a little 2 or 4 seater.

Charlie: 1.5 mill is cheap for a jet, but not cheap for me. I can at least suspend disbelief long enough to fantasize about a $50k kit plane.

#225 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 01:11 AM:

Nancy, I've updated Courage Vow to use "humankind" rather than "mankind".

Enjoy.

#226 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 02:43 AM:

And if we were flying between DC and London, I wouldn't even be allowed out of my seat to pee or change an overflowing diaper on the last part of the flight.

I'm pretty sure the rule that required passengers to stay in their seats for the last 30 minutes of the flight into DC was a) only for Reagan National, while most international flights land at Dulles and b) was lifted in 2005.

So the one restriction on my list that bears some resemblance to a rational precaution has, in fact, been lifted. Why am I not surprised?

I'm just waiting for CNN to run a story about a jet diverting to the Azores because the passengers were all screaming "AT-TIC-A! AT-TIC-A!" while pounding on their tray tables and the crew was afraid of spontaneous human combustion.

#227 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 03:57 AM:

The no hand luggage rule has been relaxed, much to the relief of my mother (traveling Edinburgh - Atlanta tomorrow). She had backed up her laptop entirely and was preparing to pack it very carefully in her checked bag. We were going to put pages of sudoku in her wallet with her money and were struggling with the issue of writing implements.

There is some chatter that the relaxation of the rule was due to the airlines' concern about the Warsaw rules for compensation for luggage damage. I am certain the airlines were instrumental in getting the ban lifted, since their customers were getting rather peevish about all this theater. I imagine the airlines whose customers spent the night in the rain outside Heathrow are also getting a little snappish.

#228 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 08:49 AM:

Thanks Greg! I will sign it today!

#229 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 09:16 AM:

We were going to put pages of sudoku in her wallet with her money and were struggling with the issue of writing implements.

If she has long hair, pens can easily be disguised as hair sticks - remove the caps and paint them a bright color with nail polish or something. Solid black pens with no writing might even pass without being painted. Wind the hair into a bun and thrust several pens through it.

I do this at work somewhat unconsciously and sometimes arrive home with several pens stuck in my hair.

#230 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 09:31 AM:

I will sign it today!

Oh, well, see, in interesting thing happened on teh way to the website. I'm in the process of changing webhosts and I'm not a webprogrammer, so I didn't know how I would transfer the database, so I ended up taking the signup sheet offline.

What I did do instead was make the work available under a Creative Commons-Attribution license, which means you can freely copy, distribute, and modify the document, post it or part of it, or a modified part of it, on your own website or whatever, I just ask that you attribute where the original came from.

I'd rather see people put it to use in their own way than anything else.

#231 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 11:33 AM:

Susan,

Clever. I was thinking the pencils that I have that are small enough to fit in a wallet, in the credit card slots.

Her hair has only now grown long enough for hair sticks (it strengthened when it went grey - Native American ancestry comes through!). I taught her to do buns in March. Mine has been hip-length for my entire adult life, much to her annoyance.

But the restrictions have been lifted - she can bring books, her iPod, and her laptop, so she won't be bored.

#232 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 12:05 PM:

Over on Daily Kos (no link, because I haven't figured out how to do that yet and I'm lazy) SusanG and DarkSyde both have posts up, one funny, one serious, which assert in different ways what many of us have been saying here regarding fear. Worth reading.

#233 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 12:17 PM:

Clever. I was thinking the pencils that I have that are small enough to fit in a wallet, in the credit card slots.

Golf card pencils are your friend. Pencils didn't occur to me because I'm one of the foolhardy who does puzzles in ink.

#234 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 06:40 PM:

Lizzie, when you're typing in the text for your post, look below. The bottom line of html is how you link text.

#235 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2006, 08:50 PM:

Susan, we are kindred spirits. Or at least our hair is. The real fun part was sitting in the front row in chorus, pulling a short, tiny pencil out of my bun--where it had been all but invisible--to mark down some notes on my score, and being startled by the woman behind me exploding in uncontrollable laughter at this conjuring trick.

The trick works for knitting needles too, at least those nice little bamboo double-pointers. Put your project on temp string and shove the dps into the bun. Hell, they're no sharper or larger than my habitual hair-stick which hasn't once gotten flagged in security.

#236 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2006, 10:59 PM:

Greg: That leaves only, er, nothing, that he's strong on?

I remember 7th-grade English discussing Plot, Tone, Theme, Character, and ? (Overall?), with short examples of each. For a while Dickson could write a carry-you-along \story/, provided you didn't choke too badly on his implausibilities. Then his ... enthusiasms ... (and the fact that he could make a living off of Fat Fantasy) got the better of him....

#237 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2006, 11:43 PM:

Nicole: You can normally take knitting needles through airport security, although the TSA says that the screeners can use their discretion, and that they recommend bamboo or plastic. I've never had a problem with full-length (13") bamboo needles, much less circulars. Since I can't believe that the knitting lobby is terribly powerful, it's nice to know that sanity has prevailed in some small regard - the person with the half-finished baby sweater stuffed into her carryon is probably not going to try to hijack the plane (even if she is a youngish brownskinned foreigner).

#238 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 12:56 AM:

Marilee, I've read that line. But (I am embarrassed to confess but will say anyway) the line makes no sense to me. I don't understand what it is telling me to do. (Unlike the instructions above it, which are simple enough for even me to get.) I have been using computers for 24 years but I still prefer to write things on pieces of paper.

But thanks for trying.

#239 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 01:14 AM:

debcha: the person with the half-finished baby sweater stuffed into her carryon is probably not going to try to hijack the plane (even if she is a youngish brownskinned foreigner).

Unless the knitting needles explosive and the baby sweater is really made of detcord.

#240 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 02:13 AM:

Lizzy L.: Copy that line into your post, exactly as it is -- everything before (but not including) the = sign. Then change

www.url.com

to whatever the actual URL is you want to link to; change

linked text

to the actual text you want to appear for people to click on.

#241 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 07:54 AM:

everything before (but not including) the = sign
That's the second = sign, just before 'Linked text', as leaving the <a href="http:// bit exactly as shown is necessary for the link to work.

In fact, can I remind y'all to try and make sure the http:// section is there. When it's missing you get a 404 error "can't find file". If you recognise what's happened you can usually find the place linked to, but it's annoying, and throws less experienced people off.

#242 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 04:57 PM:

I actually learned to use the html for linked text from Making Light!

#243 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 11:54 PM:

We got an e-mail at work this afternoon informing us that there will be filming downtown (several blocks away from us) this week that will involve squibs and flashing lights and loud noises. Just so we won't panic and call in law enforcement, I think, but mostly because it will probably result in traffic jams.

#244 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 03:37 AM:

Mez: Yes, thanks.

#245 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2006, 01:35 PM:

Hell, they're no sharper or larger than my habitual hair-stick which hasn't once gotten flagged in security.'

I have a pair of hairsticks which are stainless steel, about 6 inches long each, and pointy enough that you really wouldn't want to fall on them. I wonder how airport security would react to them.

Then again, I once had a conversation with a couple of guys in which they detailed everything in my dorm room they could make weapons out of. When they got down to M&Ms--not the whole bag, the individual candies--I started to get scared...

#246 ::: Mary Aileen sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2014, 07:34 PM:

spam at #246

and one here from a few days ago that was missed in that cleanup.

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