Back to previous post: Happy New Year!

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Supporting Our Troops

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

January 1, 2008

The clocks were striking thirteen
Posted by Avram Grumer at 06:59 PM * 87 comments

George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Part 1, Chapter 5:

He did not know how long she had been looking at him, but perhaps for as much as five minutes, and it was possible that his features had not been perfectly under control. It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself — anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offence. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called.

Us, now:

TSA officials will not reveal specific behaviors identified by the program — called SPOT (Screening Passengers by Observation Technique) — that are considered indicators of possible terrorist intent.

But a central task is to recognize microfacial expressions — a flash of feelings that in a fraction of a second reflects emotions such as fear, anger, surprise or contempt, said Carl Maccario, who helped start the program for TSA.

“In the SPOT program, we have a conversation with (passengers) and we ask them about their trip,” said Maccario from his office in Boston. “When someone lies or tries to be deceptive, … there are behavior cues that show it. … A brief flash of fear.”

(Seattle PI link via Ken MacLeod)

Comments on The clocks were striking thirteen:
#1 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 07:17 PM:

"we have a conversation with (passengers) and we ask them about their trip,"

None of your damn business as a reply will get you tossed into the Oubliette I take it.

#2 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 07:29 PM:

The innocent have nothing to hide. Except their thoughts and feelings, of course, and perhaps insufficient vigor in our declarations that we love Big Air.

#3 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 07:51 PM:

How soon to the Night Watch?

#4 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 08:00 PM:

Training the TSA to catch on when folks feel contempt for or fear of the TSA? Brilliant!

#5 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 08:08 PM:

Back in the day, I took a polygraph after a smuggling bust when I was innocent. The conclusion? Evidence of intent to deceive. To this day, I think the problem was that I knew enough about polygraphs to be suspicious, and therefore something registered as a thought crime. (I was later cleared when the person responsible for the hashish confessed.)

And now the TSA will pull people aside who show a flash of fear at the idea they might be pulled aside by the TSA? Oh frabjous day.

#6 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 08:12 PM:

I can see every person forced by circumstance to travel with a headache, every woman with PMS, every just plain cranky person, and many, many people with psychiatric or neurological disorders quickly clogging their system.

#7 ::: Nangleator ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 08:31 PM:

#4 Adam and #6 JESR, they'll be busy. They'll be clogged up. But it's not much fun to constitute part of a clog.

I'm flying in 18 days and not looking forward to it.

And I'll let you know how "None of your damn business" works.

#8 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 08:41 PM:

The work on micro-expressions is based on the work of Berkeley psychologist Paul Ekman. As far as I know it is valid--unlike polygraphs, which produce results no better than chance. But...I'd be scared if I were accosted by a stranger in an airport, these days, so I think the main result of all that training and careful observation is going to be a lot of wasted time.

#9 ::: flowery tops ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 08:41 PM:

I just finished re-reading 1984 this morning!

#10 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 09:00 PM:

The only way to take the fangs out of the TSA - which is still centered primarily upon air travel - is to stop traveling by air - and to let the airlines and your congresscritters know that their continued support of the TSA and its behaviors is the primary reason why you are no longer flying.

Letting the airlines alone know might not be enough. Hell, letting them both know might not be. But if everyone in the country stopped flying - or even just 10-20% of those who used to semi-regularly fly - and stated loudly that this was the reason? That might make a difference.

Unfortunately, it's not going to happen. And so the noose gets a little bit tighter, and the calls to storm La Bastille get a little bit louder.

Damn fucking idiots.

#11 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 09:06 PM:

You know, I rather wish I hadn't read this -- knowing the program exists is likely to trigger exactly the flash of fear they're looking for.

#12 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 09:11 PM:

JESR @ 6

Clogging the system is a desired result. That's the best way of getting an increase in budget.

#13 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 09:15 PM:

There are other good reasons to fly as little as possible: it's harder on the planet than driving (though not as hard as taking a sea cruise, I believe), and breathing passenger air is not high on anyone's health list.

#14 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 09:30 PM:

will shetterly @ 13

It's not a big deal, but you also get a bigger dose of cosmic radiation while you're in a plane at cruising altitude than you do on the surface. This is mainly important for crew, since they can double their yearly dosage wrt staying on the ground.*

Source: World Health Organization.

#15 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 09:37 PM:

Is there any reason to believe that this microfacial expression technique will be any more a panacea for interrogation than Voice Stress Analysis was supposed to be? VSA is still, after more than 20 years, the subject of a major debate among interrogation and security specialists.

In other words, even if we assume that interrogators are trained to detect false positives like normal nervousness and generic fear of police, is there any evidence that it's actually going to produce a sufficient level of true positives to be useful? Or is this just another form of witch interrogation, designed to give the interrogators the excuse they need to look further at anyone they want?

#16 ::: jack ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 09:47 PM:

Nangleator @ 7

Room 101

#17 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 09:53 PM:

Boy, I feel safer already.

#18 ::: elizabeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 09:54 PM:

I don't know what the right answer is here.

As someone who has both eye and anxiety problems, I am very likely to be pinned by these types of programs.

Not using air travel really isn't an option, assuming I want to travel. The rail system is not a reasonable option for any kind of long-range travel, at least on the West Coast (a conversation that has occurred here before, so I won't recap it). And with gas prices what they are, even if I didn't feel way too old for road trips, travel by auto is expensive and uncomfortable.

The net result is a choice between restriction on freedom to travel and extreme and invasive scrutiny upon travel. It's not a good choice to have to make.

As an aside, I traveled to Canada (from the US) this month, and I had no trouble with TSA or customs. I had a serious issue with an over-zealous ticket agent who wanted to make my life miserable because I use both a maiden and married name. So go figure. The paranoia and vigilante behavior must be contagious.

#19 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 09:59 PM:

The major U.S. airport has started to feel not just like Nineteen Eighty-Four, but crossed with Brave New World and Dawn of the Dead: shopping-mall stores and food courts, and travelers eerily standardized and zombieish from jet-lag or anxiety.

"Alternative" people -- especially those with obvious features, such as body piercings and modifications, large beards, unusual clothing, etc. -- do not seem to travel as much by plane. Low-income people and minorities also don't fly as much. Please correct me if I am wrong, but outside HUGE airports such as LAX, LaGuardia or Heathrow, plane travel seems to self-select for the white bourgeoisie, which is most afraid of terrorism.

At Dulles (Washington, D.C.) a few days ago, I started to feel that I'd stumbled into a dystopian satire on counting approximately the twentieth tense, fortyish mom with blonded hair and expensive jeans. Hell, the next nearest airport was renamed after Ronald Reagan.

#20 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 10:06 PM:

I'd note that the one time I got 'casually' approached by a uniformed TSA person -- at Logan Airport, in 2006 -- I was travelling with my wife. An interracial couple is always suspicious, it seems.

In Spain, on the other hand, I get taken for an Arab and 'randomly' frisked.

#21 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 10:10 PM:

Scott Taylor @ 10 - Interesting idea. For better or worse, some of us need to travel for our jobs. Besides, if we stop traveling, aren't we just facilitating the process of becoming a more isolationist country?

I went and read the article, and it wasn't clear to me whether or not the TSA people were in uniform or not. Although the uniform might trigger hostility in some people, I'd be much more likely to answer them than some random pair of passersby. Where am I going? Well, if you work for the TSA, for better or worse you can look at my boarding pass, so I'm going to tell you. If you're just some guy in street clothes, I'd probably say "on a business trip" or somesuch and then brush off any follow-up questions.

As to how well it's going to work or fail - I've no idea, although I don't have high hopes that this will be anything more than another TSA boondoggle.

FWIW, in the past four months, I flew from Amsterdam to Seattle twice. Everyone boarding the plane had to have a chat with an inspector who asked about the trip, and other related questions. In September, there was a great deal of interest in the electronics that I was carrying (was it mine, how long had I had it...) and last month the focus was on why I had flown to Istanbul for just a handful of days. We wound up discussing Seattle's unfortunate transit system because he asked me for a business card and the best thing I had was my work ID that has a bus pass sticker on the back. (He was surprised that a bus system could call itself a Metro.)

#22 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 10:11 PM:

At 43, I'm glad I still enjoy road trips. I haven't flown since 1999, not because of anything to do with the current atmosphere of antiterrorism insanity, but because in the past eight years I haven't found myself going anyplace I couldn't get to within about six hours worth of driving. (That trip in '99 was a business trip to Kansas City, flying out of Detroit - I worked in Toledo at the time.)

I like driving to places. I enjoy seeing the scenery from ground level, I like being in the comfortable environment of my own vehicle, and I am glad to be in control of that environment rather than being at the mercy of various airport or airline personnel. Usually, I'm not traveling alone, of course, so I do have someone to share the driving and also for company, but I have made my share of long-distance solo drives (Cincinnati to Atlanta and Cincinnati to Niagara Falls being the two longest).

Now that flying has become such a hassle, I find I am even more glad that I don't do much of it.

#23 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 10:13 PM:

Ah, man, I guess it's time to trim my beard again. And just as it was getting cold, too.

Does the TSA confiscate canes yet?

#24 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 10:20 PM:

Actually, these folks want to cut down on air travel by the general populace -- free internal travel is just one of those "dangerous freedoms" they want to get rid of, let alone the ability to visit other countries.

#25 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 10:39 PM:

Since January 2006, behavior-detection officers have referred about 70,000 people for secondary screening, Maccario said. Of those, about 600 to 700 were arrested on a variety of charges, including possession of drugs, weapons violations and outstanding warrants.

So they've got an admitted record of 99% false positives. Is that any improvement over what they'd get if they just pulled people out at random? Somehow I doubt it... but that's a check that will never be run.

#26 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 10:46 PM:

Larry Brennan @ 21 -
I'm aware some people have to (for certain values of "have to" ranging from "No, really, no other option" to "You, know, Bob, I should head down to the Atlanta office. Get some... 'face time' with the folks down there. Really needs to be done. I'll take ten days, make arrangements through Travel."*) fly for their business. But even there - there are flights one has to take, flights one should take, and flights one could do without.

(I haven't flown since 2004 - which was for work. This has made life difficult for me - I missed a chance to meet up with my parents in Colorado last year because of it, and it will make a journey to see them in Cuyamanca Ranch SP difficult as well. If I had to fly? It would depend on what it was for. Family, certain friends, and a really-real Utter Crisis? I'll ship my bags and fly with as much camouflage (suit, briefcase, etc.) as I can. Work? I'm not sure. I like my job - I want to keep it. But...).

On the isolationism front - It might well. But I suspect that's going to happen anyways (as the price of fuel continues to climb, the price of travel - especially air travel - will do likewise, squeezing foreign travel increasingly into the realms of the "Rich and Famous" only), and, honestly, I'd rather have a slightly more isolationist - but free - society than a society that loves and understands and respects all of its neighbors and people far far away as well - but is under complete, total, inescapable surveillance (the Total Surveillance Administration?) with little to nothing in the way of acknowledged personal rights. And I'm not sure to what extent the Internet and other communication media are providing at least something of an offset (if a very weird and curious one) to the whole "long ways away" thing. Dunno.

*Which often means "It's too damn cold to sling golf balls around up here, so I'm gonna go to the Atlanta office, put four hours of "work" in a day in meetings and stuff, and spend the other six hours or so a day on the links, while billing all my travel and work to the business accounts. Ta!" (This does not mean I'm accusing you of this, Larry - but we've all seen it happen).

#27 ::: Erik Ordway ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 10:51 PM:

My understanding is that this is the technique that has been in use in Israel (at the airports) for quite some time. It is a system that actually is somewhat effective. Unlike say dumping all your liquids in a trash can or spreading athletes to the american flying public. I have to say this is one of the two things that the TSA has done that I think will have some positive security effect. The other is screening luggage for explosives.

#28 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 11:04 PM:

Adam #4: It's trying not to show contempt for the TSA that's suspicious.

Will #13: Air travel works against global warming. (There was over 1% more sunlight reaching the ground shortly after 9/11/2001 while all flights remained grounded.)

Bruce #14: Someone who lives in Denver and flies to Boston for a weekend gets less radiation overall as a result.

#29 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 11:22 PM:

Bruce, #15: Ekman's work is real and, as far as I know, well-respected. I suspect that this technique, combined with standard non-violent interrogation techniques, is quite effective. Terry? But covert interrogation--essentially what is described here--is going to make for a lot of problems. For one thing, most "covert" police are fairly obviously police; the TSA face-readers are going to be recognized, and that recognition is itself going to trigger reactions. Inasmuch as it raises the general anxiety level of air travel, this is probably going to be a net negative.

#30 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 11:31 PM:

David Harmon @ 24 -
Actually, these folks want to cut down on air travel by the general populace -- free internal travel is just one of those "dangerous freedoms" they want to get rid of, let alone the ability to visit other countries.

Which "they"?

The Airlines? Hell no. If they could figure out a way to make it attractive for me to fly between Rochester and Buffalo or Syracuse, they'd be all over it like white on rice. They want people to fly lots and lots and lots, because when lots of people are flying, they get lots of business, which makes their bottom lines look good, which makes their stocks look good, which means their total value goes up. Every time their balance sheet is red at the end of the year (which, from what I can tell, is every year since 2001, at least for the industry as a whole, although a lot of that is charges for restructuring, etc.) they get nasty twinges. Those twinges get even more intense when it's not even their fault that their bottom line sucks. Make them twinge a lot, and they'll start hollering - and the airline industry is something like a 150 - 200 billion dollar a year chunk of the economy.

The TSA? Most of the TSA are Just Plain Guys. The average TSA dude is a dude who couldn't quite make it as a police officer (due to quality, quantity of applicants, psych profile, physical profile, or whatever), who managed to slot in at the TSA. They might not have the strongest code of ethics in the world, but they aren't actually evil - even if they're doing a (somewhat) evil job.* Even in management - there are dudes there to increase their personal power (or just further their career), dudes who honestly think they are doing the right thing,** and dudes who are actually out to commit Bad Ideas.

Congress? Maybe some of them. Some of them are scared. Some of them know their constituency is scared, and are either reflecting that in their voting, or using it to keep getting re-elected. Some of them are taking advantage of a bad situation (and making it worse), and some aren't. Some of them are actively seeking to subvert "Truth, Justice, and the American Way" - others are just politicians.

The NeoCon brigade? Some of them, probably. I doubt it's even all of them. Some of the people whose strings they are pulling/being pulled by couldn't care less, honestly, so long as cash keeps flowing into their coffers at accelerating rates. Others probably really are twirling their mustachios and plotting to tie Penny Pureheart to the railroad tracks.

This, unfortunately, is not a simple matter of Us (the freedom-loving, righteous American People, who just wanna fly to see their gramma in Denver without getting an Eric Cartman Special) versus Them (the Evil Bad Freedom-Hating Politicos who want to lock us all up in little boxes). If it were, the solution would also be simple - hang them by the necks until dead, dead, dead, we outnumber them by lots and lots.

*Let's remember. These aren't concentration camp guards, or torturers, or anything like that. They're often officious, frequently annoying, some of them are a little drunk on power, and they are certainly following orders that are over the line all over the place. Some of them are shady, or downright dishonest. A few are thieves, peeping-toms, and possibly worse. But the vast majority aren't murdering scum.

**"The other guy is rarely a villain in his own eyes." and all that.

#31 ::: Virge ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 11:39 PM:

Sonnet for a TSA SPOT Officer

You've seen my flush, my irises dilating,
But did your training leave you unprepared
For passengers like me, heart palpitating,
Locked to your eyes, so tragically ensnared?
Unable to resist your polished mettle,
Your uniform, authority, oh yes!
And discipline, and... let my pulse rate settle;
I look away, but does that signal stress?

Encased in distant ice, no jokes allowed,
Your shoulders bear the fears of those who'd fly
In fragile tubes, souls cowed within a crowd.
Is there no human space where we could talk
And touch and share? No. Wait. Perhaps if I
Pretend to some discomfort as I walk...

#32 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 11:42 PM:

"The tortoise is lying on its back, but you're not helping, Leon. Why is that?"

#33 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 12:01 AM:

Erik Ordway @ 27 ...
My understanding is that this is the technique that has been in use in Israel (at the airports) for quite some time. It is a system that actually is somewhat effective. Unlike say dumping all your liquids in a trash can or spreading athletes to the american flying public. I have to say this is one of the two things that the TSA has done that I think will have some positive security effect. The other is screening luggage for explosives.

I don't believe that the TSA will succeed in implementing this technique with any success either. That would imply a degree of capability and subtlety on the part of their employees that is, quite frankly, beyond my capability to imagine as anything other than a rare accident of hiring.

The TSA have in the past (and I suspect continue to do so) hired out of the same pool of minimum wage earners that spend their time guarding parking lots and building sites after hours -- not exactly a career job, or a job with a future.

#34 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 01:06 AM:

Scott, #30: I think David is talking about (1) the Dominionists and (2) the "shadow government" -- the people behind the scenes who have a lot of influence but little or no media recognition. Pushing isolationism is much easier when you're doing it to people who have little or no exposure to anything outside their own culture. There's a whole longish discussion of this over on (I think) Open Thread 98, where abi mentions that her ex-pat status actually damages her credibility with other Americans on things like world affairs.

#35 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 01:13 AM:

Erik Ordway (#27): You could argue as to whether this is a "TSA" accomplishment, but reinforced cockpit doors are another quite valid and productive security improvement.

Mary Dell (#32): Boy, I sure hope the TSA folks don't ask anyone about their mother.

#36 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 01:17 AM:

Scott: I was misremembering, it's in the "Peace on the Border" thread.

#37 ::: Mikael Vejdemo Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 05:55 AM:

So, I'm about to head out on my first visit, ever, to the US. Going to a week-long mathematics conference in San Diego.

Reading this really makes me look forward to crossing the border controls. Or something.

By the way - I view myself as a reasonable argument in the whole "Fly because of my work" discussion. I'm a PhD student in mathematics, about to graduate and go on to a research career. So far, I've been to meetings, conferences and guest researcher stays in Stockholm, T'bilisi, Sydney, Leeds, Copenhagen, Berlin, Paris, Torino, Gothenburg and Villars-sur-Ollon. I have visits to San Diego, Philadelphia, Stanford, Berkeley and Amsterdam planned. Due to national differences in lengths and positions of the academic year, I often need to go during the teaching term in Jena, Germany - and thus need someone to fill in for me while I'm away.

Now, how could I possibly do this - which in some cases makes my work at all possible, and in other raises the value of my work immensely - without air travel? Cross the Atlantic by ferry? Drive to Georgia?

And this is not about 4h workdays with golf afterwards. This is about 10-15h of non-stop mathematics discussions and lectures followed by crashing into bed, sleeping, and getting up again next day to do it again. Conferencing is great fun - but I very seldom do anything even close to as exhausting as that.

#38 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 06:40 AM:

Mary Dell @ 32 & Christopher Davis @ 35, Yup, the 'Voight-Kampff empathy test' certainly came to mind with that description. (This may be one of those "assumed knowledge" things discussed elsewhere.) Though that seemed to use both human and mechanical/computer observation.

#39 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 07:50 AM:

The Israeli screening program was discussed in some detail on a Science Friday NPR episode last year:
August 18, 2006

Also, Bruce Schneier on Israeli vs American security, in BusinessWeek, from 2003.

#40 ::: Eric Scharf ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 09:33 AM:

Julia @11: You know, I rather wish I hadn't read this -- knowing the program exists is likely to trigger exactly the flash of fear they're looking for.

Of course, which is why it was leaked in the first place. Security theater is much cheaper when the audience members are extras.

#41 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 09:39 AM:

Scott @#30, Yeah, Lee #34 has part of it... there's also the point that you're talking in terms of individual actions, but aggregate behavior is also important here. Part of the "neocon conspiracy"'s "dubious achievement" is that they've been changing the collective goals of the government toward their own ends of feudal kleptocracy.

Obviously, they're not getting everything their own way(*), but they've already done a hell of a lot of damage. And it is "damage", not just "neutral change" -- they're destroying a highly-developed functional structure, and the achievements thereof, in favor of something that's backed by individual, short-term, ambitions, and will therefore resist being changed back toward the public and long-term interests.

(*) notably, the military is still resisting (thus the introduction of mercenaries), and the only way to change the scientific establishment is to eviscerate it, which they are doing.

#42 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 09:42 AM:

I'm very much torn about this. It bears some similarities to what I consider the better way to catch actual terrorists, which is to have people trained to recognize sketchy behavior and pull people who are truly behaving oddly for further searching -- rather than making everyone take off their shoes and surrender their toothpaste.

On the other hand, my confidence is very, very low that the TSA will have any clue how to actually do this, and that it won't turn into "He looks stressed out, let's slap him in jail for a week."

So, pretty much what xeger @33 said.

Also, from Scott Taylor @30: Let's remember. These aren't concentration camp guards, or torturers, or anything like that. They're often officious, frequently annoying, some of them are a little drunk on power, and they are certainly following orders that are over the line all over the place. Some of them are shady, or downright dishonest. A few are thieves, peeping-toms, and possibly worse. But the vast majority aren't murdering scum.

Unfortunately, the description from your third sentence on could pretty well describe people in any arm of a bureaucracy that ends up committing human rights abuses. Concentration camp guards just had a job to do. Maybe they even felt bad about it.

So, in the larger context of your comment, no, the TSA isn't the driving force who wants anything bad. They're just the arm of the people who do, which Lee @34 discussed.

#43 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 09:43 AM:

Erik Ordway @ 27

The other is screening luggage for explosives.

And that's been so effective that in 19 out of 19 tests by the FAA, screeners did not find "simulated bomb components" in luggage.

#44 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 09:48 AM:

Scott Taylor @ 30

*Let's remember. These aren't concentration camp guards, or torturers, or anything like that. They're often officious, frequently annoying, some of them are a little drunk on power, and they are certainly following orders that are over the line all over the place.

Read some descriptions of the people who were camp guards (not the officers, just the guys who guarded the gates, or kept the records in the office), especially read Hannah Arendt, and then ask yourself again what the difference is. I think your one sentence description nails a lot of the Germans who worked in the camp infrastructure.

#45 ::: Suzette Haden Elgin ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 10:10 AM:

For decades my kids have been insisting that my husband and I should give up traveling by car and use the airlines instead. So much more convenient, they told us; so much more comfortable; so much less boring. So, it being a very long drive from our place to and from Norwescon, we decided to give that a try.

Never -- never -- again. [Maybe in a horrendous emergency; otherwise .... never again.] Especially after I had to be taken away and searched down to bare skin level by two very pleasant TSA women -- several times, without anything ever being found to explain why I was setting off the metal detectors.

I'm assuming it wasn't my face that was setting off the metal detectors, but I could be wrong.

#46 ::: jayskew ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 12:16 PM:

#26: Why do you think an isolationist country would be any more free or less watched?

The Internet will remain a means of effective communication only as long as we insist that it be so. The administration that keeps implementing more airport surveillance with arbitrary rules (this month it's lithium batteries) is the same one whose FCC just forced through more media consolidation over the objections of just about everybody at the hearings it held, as well as objections by subcommittees of both the House and Senate. The same FCC that around 2000 did away with thousands of competitors to the current telco and cableco Internet access duopoly, and then in successive decisions took away common carriage protection from cable, landline, and wireless Internet access. Meanwhile, the administration insists on retroactive immunity for the telcos that helped with illegal warrantless wiretaps (in which they continue to supply *all* transmissions to the government), and except for Chris Dodd's filibuster would have gotten it already.

In this direction lies the Internet as cable TV: you get to pay for a package of hundreds of channels with nothing to watch. You wanted to participate instead? Sorry, that doesn't pay enough to an entrenched duopoly that only understands broadcast media.

#30: If you think there's no "they" involved with these decisions, I suggest you read Conservatives Without Conscience by John W. Dean: he names names based on years of research and the experience to know what he was researching, and he provides copious documentation. You don't need a vast majority to be murdering scum: you only need a tiny minority to be radical authoritarians who value power over everything else, and a significant minority of authoritarian followers who will do whatever they're told because Big Brother told them to.

#35: Cockpit doors were the single thing that TSA did that was most useful. And that didn't require a TSA to do it. While TSA may have been implemented as a real security initiative, it provides endless opportunities for control for its own sake.

#47 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 01:36 PM:

Scott Taylor #28 - a 'links' golf course is, by definition, at the seaside. Atlanta is how many hundred miles from the sea?

As a trained investigator, I'll tell you that any visual sign is just that, a sign, and can have several thousand different interpretations. Asking the right question, and then the next right question depending on the answer, and then the next right question . . . well, that's a bit more problematic and even then is so dependent upon context and linguistic compatability that it requires not only training, dedication, intelligence, inspiration, consistent third party examination but also lots and lots of time.

Anyone who tells you he has an investigative magic bullet is lying and the only question you need to ask is 'why'?

#48 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 01:44 PM:

Martyn 47: 'On the links' is an expression that means "golfing," even if your seaside restriction is true. I offer no opinion of whether it is, never having been on a non-miniature golf course in my entire misspent life.

#49 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 02:55 PM:

Truly scary stuff. What especially disturbs me is the confidence that the officials and officers place in their "method" and "training." Contrast that with what Ekman had to say in an interview about his research (especially section 4, 'Consulting the Face', regarding the actual aptitude of various professional groups for reading faces). And as he also points out, while a certain number of facial expressions are universal, body language is NOT, and I just don't buy it that the SPOT "investigators" are competent.

Also interesting is a list of his current projects -- all worthwhile stuff that deserves rigorous research, but which is still in very early stages, hardly ripe for something like the project described in Seattle, as far as I'm concerned.

#50 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 02:57 PM:

Xopher: Links is the descriptor for the coastal area in which the Scots designed golf.

Martin: As Xopher says, the word has been taken to mean, "a golf course".

For further disection of the mutation of terms, see Dinosaurs/Birds. :)

Randolph: It's a useful technique, but it requires training, and time. The settings for this, in public won't work. Profiling for nervous behavior, etc. is one thing. This is a completely different level of stuff. It works where the interviewer/interrogator can pay careful attention to all that's going on with the subject. In line, not so much.

Absent, as well, in the setting which makes it more effective. Ask me why I'm travelling, I might look apprehensive. I might think you were trying to elicit some information; because I might be going someplace where letting the world know isn't the best thing.

When I went to Germany last month, I was careful (as per my training) not to give details about why. I told them it was for business, but not what that business was.

Given the level of training I expect the TSA to provide, I think I'd be likely to have to pull out my orders to get out of that mess.

#51 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 09:43 PM:

Why is stupid so predicable?

I just had to refute the "All of you on your moral high-horse about torture need to answer me this, if torturing one person will save the lives of hundreds of thousands, is it more moral to let the hundreds of thousands die?"

This after the idjit had explained that as soon as some administration stops torturing people he expects us to get hit again, but he's really against torture, it's just a horrid necessity (I really need to make a torture-monger bingo card).

Which tells me he didn't read what I'd said above about why torture doesn't work... because he thought he had the ace of trumps... "isn't one man worth less than hundreds of thousands?".

I don't think he's going to like my answer. I suspect he's really not going to like my bringing Abraham negotiating with God to save all the guilty people in Sodom and Gomorrah, for the life of one innocent.

It's getting to where I can almost phone 'em in.

#52 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 09:52 PM:

Wow... when looking for a quotation to use in my reply I found this little gem...

[For those of us of a certain age and political persuasion, these lines will always call to mind the impassioned plea by Henry Hyde (R, IL) for the Senate to hold President Clinton answerable to the laws of the land. But then as in More's time, there were hardly any ready to withstand the leveling political wind that was blowing. No Cabinet Member or Administration employee resigned in the face of the President's misconduct and lies. No Democrat Senator voted for a single article of impeachment; all succumbed to the cult of personality. It was particularly appalling to watch men like Moynihan, Lieberman and Byrd betray every principle for which they have spoken in public life. For one awful, but thankfully brief moment, we saw the dread specter of what it's like to live in a world where the whims of men are paramount, and the rule of law a farce. Well might we, like More, ask God to help a nation where the statesmen have no hearts, where they place their masters above the law.]

Wonder how much he's railing about the way the present administration is abiding by "the rule of law".

#53 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 11:04 PM:

Terry @#51: It might help if you get your biblical personages straight... Abraham was the guy who was told to sacrifice his son. It was Lot arguing for Sodom & Gomorrah. Jonah took the other side of a similar argument, after his (reluctant) preaching to Nineveh, whose king then repented.

#54 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 11:13 PM:

David @ #53: Nope, it was Abraham who argued with G-d for Sodom & Gomorrah--see Genesis 18:16-32.

#55 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 12:58 AM:

Yes, Lot was the one "righteous" that Abraham found in the city, having bargained down from 50 to 10 righteous in the population being enough to spare them from destruction.

#56 ::: salvador dalai llama ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 01:08 AM:

Mary Dell @ 32: What do mean, I'm not helping?

In general, though, I think we can rest easy. They're looking for "emotions such as fear, anger, surprise or contempt"--aren't these all hallmarks of authoritarian/conservative emotional makeups?

#57 ::: Gar Lipow ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 01:46 AM:

#28 Seth Breidbart

>Air travel works against global warming. (There was over 1% more sunlight reaching the ground shortly after 9/11/2001 while all flights remained grounded.)

Air travel burns fossil fuels. Air travel releases NxOX. And the same stratospheric and near stratospheric water vapor that prevents some sunlight from reaching the ground also reflects infrared emitted from the ground back into the ground. In short air travel provides net increase in global warming.

#58 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 01:49 AM:

David Harmon @53, not only is Terry correct about his biblical personages (as confirmed with chapter and verse cited by JBWoodford @54), the REASON Lot is considered righteous merits some thought, if only for the shudder-value.

Lot counts as righteous because he was exemplified the virtue of hospitality to God's angels. In the Old Testament* (Genesis 19) he saves the visiting angels from certain rape by the clamoring townsmen of Sodom and Gomorrah by offering his daughters instead (describing them as fresh young virgins, presumably a desirable commodity. For this he is rewarded with salvation for himself and his wife and daughters. The wife doesn't make it, and the daughters (figuring they're the last humans left) get him drunk and rape him, making him the second recorded victim of filial violation after alcoholic indulgence.

So he's a righteous man because he offers his daughters up to a crowd of sex-crazed Sodomites (capital letter denoting location, not an eponymous sexual practice).

Years after I first ran into the story (I must have been about seven) I haven't lost my rage at the people who accept it as any sort of moral guidance. But the principle of "don't kill the good guyz, even if they're in among the bad guyz" still seems valid (through the shaking rage at the foundation misogyny of the Old Testament.)

* Lot is deemed to be a prophet by the Koran, although not by the Jewish and Christian takes on the matter. I understand that there is Mormon doctrine with yet another take on it, but that's even further out of the scope of my knowledge. Old Testament, though - I had eleven years of intensive study of it. (It is astonishing, the size of grudge one can have against a text that rubs one's gender-incorrectness into one's nose every weekday for eleven years.)

#59 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 01:51 AM:

Another little glitch in the TSA's questioning -- if they want to do it "undercover," they have the very real prospect of generating anxiety as John Q and Mary B Public (especially Mary B) are faced with a stranger trying to elicit what will feel like personal information that can lead to theft and/or bodily harm from a criminal looking for a mark.

I have no faith in the TSA or the screeners' abilities.

At one point I was traveling, with my wife and then 1-year-old son, cross country, with all the accessories you need to spend 2 weeks with a one-year old at grandma's house when grandma lives on the opposite coast and doesn't have all the stufph that one needs to accomodate The Visible Child.

We got "randomly selected" to have our baggage pulled and inspected, and us with it. This being the days before they were legally able to break luggage locks at will, we had to open the luggage for them in this tiny room that reactivated all my paranoia about The Man from my college days.

We opened x-1 pieces of luggage, and I had just untied the twine around, and removed the duct tape from a *large* cardboard box (that being piece "x"), when I was told to re-tape it (they at least supplied strapping tape), *without it being examined.*

All of this, and the piece of baggage that *should* have been the first target of suspicion was left entirely unexamined.

But we were luckier than somebody else who had been "randomly selected" that day -- at least *our* flight had been otherwise delayed in departure so we could make it -- another couple finished their stretch with the "investigation" and then had to argue with the airline that, no, their missing their flight was *not* due to their own avoidable delay that they wee not at the gate the requisite time before departure, and, sorry, there is no other flight to your connecting city for another 6 hours. Have a nice day.

#60 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 02:36 AM:

David: Abraham is the father figure of lots of Jewish tradition, not the least of which is his bargaining with God being seen as the idea that people can stand before the diety and argue, instead of merely taking everything said as inviolable pronouncement.

If, after all, Abraham can call God's motives into question, on behalf of he unrighteous, how much more should we work for the rights of those who aren't known to be unrighteous?

There's still argument going on about Abrahams virtues,and failings, when it comes to how he dealt with God.

If you like we can get into the questions of just who was being tested with the demand to sacrifice Isaac (who was Abraham's beloved son, but no child at the time of the call, Talmud says he was 37, Joesephus puts him at 25, in any event he was an adult, who left the mountain, of his non-sacrifice, and found his wife).

Some talmudic scholars argue that Abraham failed the test, because he was willing to carry it out, saying that he ought to have, at least attempted to negotiate.

#61 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 02:41 AM:

Craig, #59: No shit. I have a well-developed sense of paranoia, and an even healthier sense of NOYGDB*, and being asked nosy personal questions by J. Random Stranger in the airport is going to set off both of those to such an extent that I'm likely to yell for Security and make a scene.

I wonder how many times something like that will happen before they conclude that it's not such a good idea after all.

* To the point where I don't get along well in Deep-Southern American culture, because people there have a bad habit of asking Really Rude Questions and then saying they were "just trying to be friendly." To which I say, the Monkees they ain't.

#62 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 08:47 AM:

Dena #58, Terry @#60: <rummage, flip>.

Whoops, you are indeed right. My apologies and obeisances! I had not remembered how Lot's story is properly part of Abraham's (and before Isaac's, even), I thought it was further down the generations....

Dana, I'd note that the cities did in fact get destroyed, though Lot was allowed to escape. Mortals can certainly question God, but he always gets the last word.

The question of "just who was being tested" on the mountain is a good one, but either way, the test was that the bloodline show utter obedience to God. And it seems to me now, that having Isaac's story coming after Sodom & Gomorrah puts an even darker cast on it....

#63 ::: Manny ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 09:37 AM:

This reminds me that the only times I have ever had anyone grill me at the border was on entry to Canada, twice.

The first time I was driving into Canada on an impulse after a business meeting in Rochester. I had the afternoon off and started to drive along the lake. When I saw a sign that said "Niagara Falls", I thought, "Why not?". Apparently, I managed to find an entry point that tourists do not usually use, so the officer was very suspicious of the briefcase on the seat. He wanted to make sure I was not planning on leaving any of my papers in Canada.

The second time was when, after a discussion of why USAns had avoided the WorldCon in Toronto, I decided to just drive up there and wander around for a change of scene. I took my laptop and assorted gadgets of course. The officer was suspicious that I was travelling to Canada on business and was even more suspicious when I told him that I had brought the laptop to write on. And then he was even more suspicious on top of that when I told him I wasn't going to be staying with anyone and in fact was going to have lunch with someone in TO I knew only by correspondence. "It's not one of those Internet things, is it?" I somehow persuaded him I was not going to become a white slave indentured undocumented writer and was allowed to pass.

Now I wonder if I have defective microfacials.


#64 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 01:47 PM:

Manny, I spent the summer of 1977 on Salt Spring Island, on my then-boyfriend's family homestead. We crossed into BC from Washington via the Victoria Ferry twice, and the first time, with the back of an old Chevy truck full of tools and an outboard motor belonging to his grandfather, we ran across a border guard who was on the last hours of his last day before reaching mandatory retirement age.

He stripped the truck of every bit of luggage, searched inside the doors and wheel wells, and cross-examined both of us separately for an hour each. It pretty much set my dials for "maximum bureaucratic hassle." There was nothing to be found, nothing was found, and we got out before the last ferry to Fulford Harbor, but we were exhausted, hungry, and terrified that we'd missed something one of our less reputable friends might have dropped from his pockets every minute of the experience.

#65 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 04:32 PM:

Terry, #51: "Why is stupid so predicable?"

"Bored now."

BTW, according Ekman, there are police who can make very good off-the-cuff real-time observations; he says there are an unusual number of them in the Secret Service. However, he did not get funding to develop tests to identify such people, or understand how they work their magic, and you can bet that these masters of observation aren't TSA line officers.

#66 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 05:16 PM:

Randolph: There are, but they are doing several different things. I can do a lot of that. It's training, and practice; and some level of innate talent.

The Secret Service guys are looking for some very specific things. I don't know what Ekman means when he discusses the real time observations, but customs officers are very good at situational profiling, a lot of which is looking for very small tics.

When the beagle hit on the cheese in my bag, part of what kept it from being a bigger deal (the cheese being legal) was that I didn't get all nervous and flustered. The same lack of concern is what made a major in Germany's head explode when he wanted to yell at me for my less than uniform headgear (and is that ugly comma, from that usage a last lingering sign of the archaic possessive usage, "a major in Germany his head explode).

He asked me what I was wearing, and when all I did was salute, and say headgear, he fell apart. Did the little shimmy that lemmings do before they explode. Looking back, if I'd blinked, he'd have gotten to the point of telling me I couldn't wear that hat.

I am certain, that even were Ekman able to figure out what sets the really observant apart from the run of the mill guy (though I suspect part of it is narrowness of interest) the amount of time, and money, required to make the guys doing the TSA program their equals won't be spent.

#67 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 05:30 PM:

JESR @ 64 - I've never had a problem getting into Canada, but I have had minor issues getting back into the US. Nothting quite as extreme as your experience, though. The biggest delay had me and a couple of friends emptying our pockets and getting frisked while they rummaged through our luggage and removed the back seat of the car. At the time (mid 80's) it was intimated that crossing the border with a passport was somehow suspicious. How times have changed.

A friend of mine, now an attorney, who studied at SUNY Buffalo tells about a failed attempt to do a beer run into Canada - he and his friends were turned away with the words "risk of becoming a burden on the Canadian people" when they appeared at the border with only about $25 between them.

#68 ::: Anna ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 05:47 PM:

They've stopped screening little kids who have the same names as "terrorists." For me, this is a plus.

We could use common sense, but of course that's out of bounds.

#69 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 05:55 PM:

I've done Canadian beer runs. Then again, being of legal age (and quite a bit more), these days my favorite place to buy adult beverages in quantity when in the Buffalo area is Premier Gourmet. Futurehubby refers to it as "Disneyland for drunks".

#70 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 06:00 PM:

Anna @ 68 -

"This is my son, Osama. This is his older brother, Adolph. Little Benito is home with the flu."

#71 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 07:20 PM:

David @62: Dana, I'd note that the cities did in fact get destroyed, though Lot was allowed to escape. Mortals can certainly question God, but he always gets the last word.

True in the case of Abraham and Sodom, but Moses does change God's mind about something. Check out Exodus 32, when God is going to kill of the Hebrews for worshipping the golden calf, and Moses talks him out of it. "And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people." That's a pretty interesting sentence right there, from a theological standpoint.

#72 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 07:28 PM:

I suspect TSA could be quickly sifted for the ability to do cold readings well. Hide each agent's paycheck in the airport and tell a random assortment of passengers and visitors where.

I suppose in fact replacing TSA with psychic hotlines would be as effective in the long run.

#37 - I'm quite curious what it is about Villars-sur-Ollon that makes it a good choice for hardworking academics? When I was a resident there the golf course had more to offer than the schools. Granted there were remnants of TB hospitals for the seriously stressed.

I wonder what might eventually be found with really high resolution CCTV and monitoring with after the fact corrections to fine tune? The CCTV will already be there.

Any comments from anybody on the London Cage as the way to welcome suspects to a besieged country?

#73 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 11:49 PM:

David @62: I'd note that the cities did in fact get destroyed, though Lot was allowed to escape. Mortals can certainly question God, but he always gets the last word.

So God is in cahoots with Lot in believing that from the universe of things once might do when townsmen bang on your door demanding sex with your houseguests, offering your daughters "here, take these - they're virgins" is a righteous thing to do.

I think God* is being misrepresented by the misogynists here. Probably the same ones who came up with the idea of "chosen people". Ick.

* The principle thereof, whichever way you conceive it to be, please make no assumptions about my conception - if any - of that entity.

#74 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 12:44 PM:

Dena #73: One can debate forever the question of whether the word "God" has an external referent, but the idea of God most certainly exists, in the minds of human beings. Or rather, the ideas of God -- there are many, many differences in detail, almost[1] entirely determined by very human influences and cultural expectations.

A culture's idea of God tells you more about the culture than about God. The same applies to individuals: we shape our own notions of God according to who we are.[2]

[1] Leaving a little room, perhaps, for the possibility of actual divine intervention in how people perceive God. But only a little. Nearly all -- and some may say all -- of what we think about God is a thoroughly human creation.

[2] Curiously enough, it was this thought that got me going to church again. Not to receive doctrine, but as a time and place reserved for thinking more deeply about what I believe about God. If my idea of God says something significant about who I am, then to know myself more clearly, I need to understand what my idea is.

#75 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 09:52 PM:

Mikael@37: I join Clark's query; if you're going to the Villars-sur-Ollon where I was a miserable student 43 years ago (long and irrelevant story -- this is the one where you can see the east end of Lake Geneva from the west end of town) -- what does it have to do with academic conferencing? At the very least, I bet \everyone/ has to travel there; if you're having the kind of grueling schedule you describe, why go to a resort? And if companies such as mine (coordinating development among Boston, ~Mpls, San Jose, Pune, Haifa, and ~London) can hold down their travel expenses, why does academia not look more at these techniques (e.g., teleconferencing)?

Gar@57: cite? IIRC, NxOx is more a consequence of the internal-combustion engine.

#76 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 10:34 PM:

What I'm hearing now is that the success rate of TSA's facial profiling is around 1%. That is, of all the people they stop and search and question using their SPOT thingie, 1% are carrying drugs or have outstanding warrants against them. The other 99$ are false positives.

The question then becomes, if you picked out the same number of people at Burger King by rolling dice as they have at airports using their fancy microfacial expressions, would you get the same percentages? That is, is SPOT rolling better, the same, or worse than pure chance?

Also, notice that none of the people discovered to be bad guys via SPOT have been terrorists. Bench warrants on file against 'em perhaps, but not terrorists.

#77 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 10:37 PM:

Also, notice that none of the people discovered to be bad guys via SPOT have been terrorists.

Which, of course, means that it's very misleading even to credit the program with a 1% success rate. So far, the success rate is 0%.

(Assuming that the stated goal is the real one.)

#78 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 11:01 PM:

When one reads the Hebrew Scriptures closely, one thing one notices is that the image of God presented in the various books differs. There is the God who seems to delight in massacre and slaughter of his people's enemies, and a God who requires justice and mercy. Not being a Biblical literalist, I am free to assume, and I do assume, that I am meant to think about these stories: to study them, to ponder them, to question them and even to reject them. My church, which says that the Bible is the Word of God, also says that the Bible was written by human beings, and that it reflects human limitations and must be read with that in mind.

#79 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 12:49 AM:

James @ 76... is SPOT rolling better, the same, or worse than pure chance?

"Spot! Roll over, bad dog!"

#80 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 12:57 AM:


What to say when the lighting tech puts too much light on one place on the stage: "Out, out, damned spot!"

#81 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 01:10 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 80... Didn't superstitious actors use to refer to MacBeth as the Spottish Play?

#82 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 01:15 AM:

#58 Dena Shunra: I always took Lot's "What the hell is wrong with you people, these guys are guests, tell ya what, why don't I give you my virgin daughters to rape" as the exact same pattern as Miracle Max's "thank you so much for bringing up such a painful subject, while you're at it, why don't you give me a nice paper cut and pour lemon juice on it?" The story makes a hell of a lot more sense when read like that. I have no doubt that sarcastic shaming is an ancient invention... Great shock/comedy/timing stuff like that, how can it go out of style? "If someone says, see, this is new, it has been already in the times before" etc. If I was going to talk down a pissy mob, it's definitely a tack I'd take, to make them consider what they're doing though analogy they could laugh at.

#83 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 01:21 AM:

Re: main thread, no two ways about it, you have to have a high Wisdom to consistently make your Spot checks.

Maybe the TSA should hire a bunch of clerics... No, wait, "Turn Undead" would unfairly impinge on the travel of many Buffy-villian-like candidates for office.

#84 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 01:29 AM:

Serge @ 80

They still do as far as I know. Most actors are superstitious to some degree; comes from working in a profession that can leave your career stranded with no notice at all.

#85 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 03:45 AM:

Sylvia, #74: Precisely. The Bible claims that God made man in His image, but in actual practice humans have always made gods in theirs. Which is why it makes me nervous that there seem to be relatively few Christians like TexAnne, and so very many who believe their god to be small-minded, petty, and hate-filled.

Jim, #76: That's what I said back at #25, albeit in less detail. It was the first thing that jumped out at me from the article.

Lizzy, #78: Humans wrote the Bible; God wrote the world.

#86 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 06:01 PM:

I once tried to have a discussion with a fundie re: the first two chapters of Genesis, which I (and numerous others) see as containing two different, even contradictory, versions of the creation story.

Her response was that I was obviously reading the second chapter in the wrong way. Which, since I'd been reading at least twice as long as she'd been alive, I thought was a pretty insulting response.

Re: SPOT...since the TSA seems designed to filter out potential employees with any actual competence, I trust this development the way I'd trust a starving lion not to eat the next gazelle it sees.... Any stranger (including a TSA-in-civvies) asking about my travel plans is going to get the cold shoulder at best, and a complaint to security at worst.

#87 ::: Mattt Oliver ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2010, 10:53 PM:

Walks through physical passages

Falls into shadows

Among lines of trees

Follows the evening sunlight death

A hallway trapped between two distances

Opposite of sleeping fire,

A quiet head appears


Without body

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.

(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.