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December 29, 2009

The new new TSA regulations
Posted by Patrick at 10:34 AM * 137 comments

From the rather good KLM blog, the latest, to the best of my knowledge, on what those new TSA policies actually are. Short version: they’re ditching the stuff about not letting people get up to pee during the last hour of the flight, and also that business about not being able to have blankets, books, laptops, or other objects in your lap.

Abi posted this in comment #1 to my post yesterday. But a day later I’m still seeing people all over the internet talking about that nutty last-hour stuff as if it were still indefinitely in effect. Maybe putting the link here on the front page will help.

There’s plenty left to criticize about the TSA’s overall approach—see Bruce Schneier’s appearance on Maddow last night for some of the basic points—but we should probably be discussing the current stupidity rather than yesterday’s stupidity.

Comments on The new new TSA regulations:
#1 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 11:20 AM:

Hoping for everyone's sake that the word has been passed to other airlines and security personnel. It's a good decision, relatively speaking.

Though this is amusing: 'Flight crew may make no announcements or reference to position or landmarks while flying over US airspace, such as “Out the left side you can see the Empire State Building and Manhattan”'

Did the tourist boards get briefed on this?

#2 ::: meredith ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 11:25 AM:

Not just yesterday's stupidity, but the stupidity of the day before yesterday.

I am about to fly domestically (TUS - IAH - EWR). I will report back on any stupidity I encounter today. I'm sure there will be some.

#3 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 11:34 AM:

Longer lines weren't immediately apparent when I dropped my older son off at Hartsfield-Jackson a couple of days ago. I'll be going back with my younger son tomorrow, and I'll see then.

#4 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 11:45 AM:

"but we should probably be discussing the current stupidity rather than yesterday’s stupidity"

i don't know--doesn't this violate the spirit of the internets somehow?

it sure as hell puts paid to most discussions of history and literary criticism.

#5 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 11:46 AM:

The idea that reading a book on a plane is dangerous is ridiculous. I'm sure that I'm doubly dangerous due to my SF/F books as well.

#6 ::: Rick Keir ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 12:01 PM:

Steven "Fish" Frischling, who does the KLM blog, has been doing a good travel blog for several years, mostly at http://boardingarea.com/blogs/flyingwithfish/ and before that at http://flyingwithfish.blogspot.com. I always download and listen to any podcast episodes he mentions that give him an interview, and pay attention to any travel-related iPhone apps he mentions.

#7 ::: Matthew Ernest ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 12:30 PM:

Tomorrow's stupidity will be the effort to figure out what part of today's stupidity was actually yesterday's stupidity.

#8 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 01:16 PM:

True. When I referred to it last night, it was intended as "stupid things the TSA has at one point done," but it was misleading for me to mix it in with stuff that's still in effect (e.g. Magic Security Baggies).

Clamping down on information about the plane's position is just silly, though. You could figure it out by playing with Google Earth before the flight and looking out the window. When I have a window seat, I play geography with myself anyway, just to pass the time -- try to figure out what city that is, what lake that is, what river that is. It's not that hard. "Hmm, I'm flying from North Carolina to Las Vegas, and we've been in the air a good long time. We're flying over some pointy snowy mountains. I wonder where we could possibly be?"

Furthermore I'm pretty sure most people could identify the Empire State Building without the flight crew's help. Especially terrorists, since we all know that terrorists take lots of scary photographs of major tourist attractions for just these nefarious purposes.

I flew into Minneapolis-St. Paul recently and you get quite a good aerial tour of the Twin Cities before landing. Blindfold all the passengers?

#9 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 01:25 PM:

Well, my father flew from Amsterdam to Detroit yesterday, and the passengers were prevented from even reading for the last hour. I gather they were not pleased about this.

#10 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 01:30 PM:

The idea that reading a book on a plane is dangerous is ridiculous.

Consider a vanity publication printed on nitrated paper ("flash paper"). Sort of the opposite of that special asbestos edition of Fahrenheit 451.

#11 ::: Matthew Ernest ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 01:52 PM:

The Vancouver Sun is reporting that Transport Canada has placed a temporary ban on carry-on luggage for flights to the US: http://www.vancouversun.com/travel/Transport+Canada+bans+carry+bags+bound+flights+hours/2386468/story.html

Is there anything we can't outsource?

#12 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 01:53 PM:

Consider a vanity publication printed on nitrated paper ("flash paper").

And ignitable by eyetracks! OH NOOOOO!

Just imagine, Joel. You could have one of those special exploding briefcases designed to destroy its contents, like they had on Mission: Impossible years and years ago (old technology, in other words). You could even have a handkerchief set up with explosives triggered by moisture, and set it off by blowing your nose!

In fact, you could have explosives implanted in non-metallic encapsulation in your body, and wired to the nerves that ordinarily cause blood engorgement of spongy tissue. Then the only detonator would be the whorish dress worn by Western women!

Obviously there's only one solution: never allow anyone to fly anywhere, ever. Even then our airplanes wouldn't be perfectly safe, but at least the terrorists would have to blow them up on the ground instead of in midair.

#13 ::: Laramie Sasseville ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 02:17 PM:

My sister-in-law works as an international policy analyst with the TSA. (And she's a fan of Schneier's.) Does anyone have suggestions for more reasonable policies they might like me to pass along to her? I'll warn her about the flash paper thing. Er, not.

#14 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 02:21 PM:

"I'm sure that I'm doubly dangerous due to my SF/F books as well."

two genres, one media - I think the TSA is an additive agency, thus you are triple dangerous.

#15 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 02:21 PM:

I haven't flown since December of 1999. The more I read and hear about how crazy and restrictive things have gotten, the more I think this is probably a good thing, as my tolerance for BS is quite low.

It doesn't bode well for my desire to see the world, however. Ah well, perhaps someday things will be a bit saner.

#16 ::: HenryR ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 02:56 PM:

The "last hour of flight" ban did make sense as an immediate response for the first 24 hours after the incident. Al Qaeda often carries out simultaneous attacks, and there might have been other terrorist acts in progress.

The effectiveness of the ban would drop rapidly after a day had passed. If anything else were planned, the criminals would have had time to change their plans to avoid the "last hour" ban. I hope it really is rescinded altogether.

Pat down searches at the gate or at security areas are going to be annoying, but that's something that can be implemented quickly, along with carry-on searches.

I long ago learned (from Spinal Tap) not to wrap the zucchini in aluminum foil, but I guess I'll now have to forego it entirely.

#17 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 03:09 PM:

Xopher @ 12:
Obviously there's only one solution: never allow anyone to fly anywhere, ever.

The TSA is clearly working on implementing this suggestion by discouraging us from flying, thus bankrupting all airlines.

On the television news last night they were reporting 4 hour delays getting through security because of the new requirements for hand-search of all carry-on luggage and patdowns for all passengers (TSA had been telling people to expect 2 hours). Either a lot of flight schedules turned into pure fiction, or a lot of people missed their flights. Eva was planning to fly back to Pittsburgh to visit her mother next month; this is always a trial for her physically, but now we're wondering if she can even stand the stress of waiting in line to get to the gate, and we're going to look into train travel instead.

#18 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 05:03 PM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers):

we're going to look into train travel instead.

Considering Bush's hatred of Amtrack and his desire to kill it as witnessed by his budgets I keep wondering: was it that aviation fuel is more profitable to the oil companies or were the airlines better contributors?

#19 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 05:17 PM:

Meanwhile, in China, the trains are running.

Video

#20 ::: Hilary L Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 07:01 PM:

Building on Matthew @11, I have a friend who is currently in Canada, who will be flying through San Francisco back to Japan on New Year's Day.

I gather the current ruling goes through the 29th, but if it gets renewed, she faces an 11 1/2 hour trip with nothing to occupy herself (backpack full of books and Gameboy must be checked) just because she has to change planes in the US and won't have any American currency on her (and even if she did have US money, I think the idea that "you can buy stuff in the airport" is wrong for so many reasons).

I was not looking forward to my trip to Sacramento (from NYC) on the 2nd, but this is so much worse.

#21 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 07:47 PM:

"From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish. In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check. Furthermore, all children under sixteen years old are now sixteen years old!"

#22 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 08:22 PM:

#19 Dave #18 Bruce

The damnable things include that the US DOT repeatedly fucked over the people who are core inventors and designers for maglev, which is why the highest speed trains are in Eurasia. It is NOT because Bruce Montgomery and Henry Kolm etc. have sold out to Asian interests, it's because the I-can't-come-up-with-coherent-deprecating- terms-which-are-deprecating-and-insulting-enough regimes of the recidivist wreck-wreaking Republicraps under Reagan, Bush I and-not-worthy-of-being-mentioned-by-name-offspring, eradicated all federal support and investment and research and interest etc. for it here..... while China is eager and anxious to not only provide RDT&E funds, but to deploy systems....

They want to build a maglev systen in the Northeast corridor, it's been an aspiration of theirs since they started developing the technology back when they literally invented the technology and did the original research at what was then the Francis Bitter National Magnet Laboratory at MIT, which university they held tenured positions at.

[And yes, I do have some actual first hand knowledge of this, from back when I was a college student and student labor on a different project they were involved with.)

http://www.magplane.com/baffair_usmkt_nc.asp

http://www.magplane.com/media.htm

http://www.magplane.com/News/MTI%20Press%20Release%2020091209.pdf

Magplane Technology to Receive $2M for Commercialization of the MagPipe System,
MagPipe Manufacturing Building Completed in Inner Mongolia

LITTLETON, MA: 9 Dec 2009 -- Magplane Technology, Inc. (Pink Sheets: MAGP) and its Inner
Mongolia Joint Venture (JV) team have completed the testing phase of the demonstration system and
finalized technical planning for construction of the fully functional 1 km “pre-production status” system.

Under the terms of agreements with the JV, Magplane will receive US$2 million for continued design and management services through this next phase of the MagPipe development that will enable constructionof a deployed commercial system in 2010.
Dr. Bruce Montgomery, Chairman and Chief Technology Officer of Magplane, said “the 1km line
demonstration design has been expanded to include numerous land topography features such as grade
climbs and curves to simulate and encompass typical commercial installations. Using components to be produced for the commercial systems, the 1-km system will be fully tested to verify operation, reliability, and maintainability requirements under real-world conditions including continuous operation and power loss scenarios.” ...

#23 ::: Nathan ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 08:31 PM:

xopher @12

According to The Onion, the FAA has been working on that for the last 8 years.

#24 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2009, 10:08 PM:

abi @ 9: Well, my father flew from Amsterdam to Detroit yesterday, and the passengers were prevented from even reading for the last hour. I gather they were not pleased about this.

Thank heavens I wasn't on that flight, as I'd have probably ended up charged with a felony. That pesky felony thing is probably the only reason more airline passengers don't riot.

#25 ::: dlbowman76 ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 02:14 AM:


I have to admit, I'm a bit engulfed by the horror of this whole situation. Let me clarify:

No, I don't think anyone is going to blow up the next plane I'm on.

(and if any plonker tries, I'll be the first to let him or her know what my thoughts are on the subject)

What I do know:

  • I am in the US of A, visiting my family for the holidays (like you do...)
  • I am traveing with two vastly superior companions (i.e.: my daughter and my spouse)
  • My itinerary involves: Indianapolis, Chicago, London, Munich. I'd like to assure all assiduous googlers: I'm not up to anything, honestly.

Now, my daughter, a sterling lady: witty, glamorous, filled with a certain je ne sais quoi - is also, how shall I put it...20 months old. And if she is deprived of her prized green velour blankie, then the torments of the damned are as bubbling melodic choruses compared to her commentary on this matter.

I sincerely hope that air marshalls are highly tolerant of screaming toddlers. *Shudder*.

#26 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 02:42 AM:

Indianapolis, Chicago, London, Munich

Everybody talk about... pop music...

#27 ::: dlbowman76 ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 03:54 AM:

re: 26: gah That hadn't even occurred to me while I was typing it. I may not lead a prosaic life, but I can be instantly googled.

#29 ::: dlbowman76 ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 04:42 AM:

re: 28: As one who is more than happy to parade his ignorance, I must confess that comment #28 is too gnomic for me (and too gnomic for google and a site search of "nielsenhayden.com" as well) I humbly request enlightenment - but will be satisfied with a clue.

yrs.
-D.

#30 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 05:46 AM:

dlbowman, #29: it is a request for expansion of a (to the reader) overly obscure reference-or-such.

#31 ::: dlbowman76 ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 05:54 AM:

re: 30: Ah! Well, I'm happy to be the clueless boring pedant (please feel free to make fun) - Mr. Walters in comment 26 is referring to the 1979 radio hit "Pop Musik" by Robin Scott. available on 8-track and Youtube for the incurably curious.

All the best,
-D.

#32 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 08:09 AM:

Tim Walters @ 26... I guess my immediately recognizing the reference betrays my many years.

#33 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 08:50 AM:

Well, that was a hilariously recursive little interchange.

Thanks for the info. It was pretty un-Googleable. Which is still recursive.

#34 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 09:23 AM:

And I'm showing my age by having been earwormed by the wretched thing.

The wonders of the modern age: you can get it as a ringtone. And earworm all your enemies...

#35 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 10:12 AM:

Amsterdam is going to start screening all passengers with the whole-body scanner.


">Scanners

#36 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 10:14 AM:

Sorry, screwed up the link.


Scanners

#37 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 10:27 AM:

Steve C @ 36... Hopefully not Kronenberg's. Louis del Grande still hasn't recovered from being scanned by Michael Ironside.

#38 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 10:35 AM:

Serge @ 37 - Yeah, that first exploding head is going to cut down on repeat travelers.

#39 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 12:07 PM:

More seriously on the topic of scanners: they're microwaves, right? Will having internal metal bits make it dangerous to be scanned by them? The bionic among us want to know.

#40 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 12:13 PM:

From what I've read, the millimeter wave scanners are very low power, so no danger to pacemakers or the like.

#41 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 12:15 PM:

Steve, thanks. I thought probably so. And I only have the inert-titanium kind of implant (my right hip) rather than the electronic kind, so I'll just worry about TSA goons looking at my junk and laughing.

#42 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 12:34 PM:

You *know* that some bright twit is going to crash the secondary imaging software (that gives the "innofensive" view - if that view actually is much less revealing than the original view) and will start selling video caught from the scanner.

So soon we will have everybody who wears "Depends" getting frisked and "patted down."

I've been wanded because my belt buckle set off the alarm.

I've had my luggage gone through multiple times (I've been tempted to leave greeting cards for the screeners in my checked baggage, but I fear that the level of imagination required for humor may be missing in some of the staff) and almost every time I fly with my Macarthur Harp the harp itself and case (a "structured" fabric carrying bag I made for it) get re-x-rayed and subjected to the explosives sniffing machine. (I really suspect the people "inspecting" are having a "WTF?" moment trying to figure out what it is)

If the Netherlands' authorities think that any part of the Toasted Testicle Terrorist incident was "professional" I *really* don't want to know what their version of the Gong Show is like.

#43 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 12:50 PM:

Craig R @42:

You know, if you're going to cast aspersions on the Netherlands because government officials say stupid stuff, I'm going open the door to similar comments about America. Then we can have a nice little flame war.

Alternatively, if you want to talk about the underlying reality, Dutch security has an economic interest in appearing to take this matter seriously. Schiphol is important to the national economy. And the airport sank a good deal of money into these scanners, which haven't taken off because of privacy concerns. So there's a substantial economic benefit to appearing serious while justifying this sunk cost, all in one blow.

I know it's nicely theraputic to call people stupid, but (a) could you focus the beam a bit more, and (b) wouldn't it be more effective to figure out why they've actually done what they've done?

#44 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 12:51 PM:

Craig 42: Macarthur Harp

I was going to [*] that, but decided to Google it instead. What an odd device. Still, it's obviously a musical instrument to any but the stupidest...which, come to think of it, is who the TSA are, generally.

Perhaps they think it's a nuke of some kind? You left your yellowcake out in the rain?

#45 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 12:55 PM:

Re "Pop Musik": this is a cover version (I think), but has the advantage of having neat laser-show visuals.

Oddly enough, while I can tell that I wouldn't have liked that song when it came out, apparently my tolerance for "dance mixes" has gone up a LOT in the interim, because now I think it's rather cute.

Tangentially, I'd also like to say that I'm greatly enjoying the breadth and variety of inventive epithets for Mr. Pants-on-Fire (that's my favorite so far) which the posters here have been coming up with.

#46 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 01:06 PM:

Not to belabor the point, but what Abi said. If we're going to have a stupid-off between American and Dutch officials, even adjusting for population differentials, it isn't Dutch officialdom that'll win the stupid crown.

I'm been through Schipol airport three times. It's one of the best-run airports I've ever seen, and its attention to security is non-trivial.

#47 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 01:13 PM:

Comments from an EMP (the pol not the pulse) of the Dutch Green Party that I heard on the radio suggest why they may not have implemented the body scanners: there are privacy concerns, some think people should be able to choose a patdown rather than be scanned, safety testing isn't complete, and they don't have a firm policy on what happens to the images of cleared people afterwards.

#48 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 01:19 PM:

Oh, they're called MEPs. Rats. Sorry.

#49 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 01:27 PM:

Abi @ 43... wouldn't it be more effective to figure out why they've actually done what they've done?

I often ask myself that question about some of the people I work for. :-)

#50 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 01:36 PM:

Lee @ 45: I'm pretty sure that's the original version. The vocal timbres (both lead and backing) are just like the original, at any rate.

I sorta like it, and I give it high marks for originality, but I think the synth-pop champion for 1979 is Cars by Gary Numan.

#51 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 01:44 PM:

Count me among the earwormed. I think it must have gotten a certain amount of MTV airplay, because in 1979 my popular music consumption was limited to a diet of the mainstream AM radio station my mother favored, but once we acquired cable with MTV in 1982, I spent hours glued to the screen.

#52 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 01:56 PM:

Craig R, that is one cool looking and sounding instrument.

I am adding it to my list of things to do if I ever become incredibly rich and do not have to work for a living.

#53 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 02:29 PM:

#14 said what I was going to say, which is that as an immediate, temporary, not-publicly-announced response, the "last hour of flight" restrictions made sense in that they would prevent an identical attack in the few days after this one.

There is (minor but not zero) security value to that in several ways: one, forcing even fairly trivial changes to a rehearsed plan increases the chance of a mistake or detection; two, if there were multiple additional attackers, communicating a revised plan between them gives an additional chance at an intercept; three, an absolutely identical attack shortly after one attack has propaganda value beyond the immediate damage.

As a permanent, uniform measure of course it would make no sense. I think random variation of restrictions would be more effective, so that not everyone has to deal with every restriction, but so that the chance of dealing with a given restriction is high enough that an attacker would still be deterred.

I think there is a popular but somewhat unfair idea that all of the measures the TSA takes are a worthless waste of time. But it's the public that wants the security measures, and they have an effect even if it is very marginal. I don't see much popular demand for them to be removed. If they noticeably loosened security there would be a storm of public & political protest. The marginal effect is still an effect - the fact that this latest idiot had to strap explosives to his legs to get them onboard and then combine them with a detonator later surely contributed to his embarrassing failure to do anything more than burn his balls off. When Napolitano said "the system worked", she was right in the sense that the security system made bringing a working bomb onboard difficult enough that this guy couldn't do it. (Obviously the intelligence portion of the system didn't work in preventing him from boarding, no argument there.)

I'd be happy to fly without these security measures, but millions wouldn't. And given the aftermath of spectacular terrorist attacks - up to and including the invasion of entire countries, the spending of trillions of dollars, and the deaths of thousands of American soldiers and foreign civilians - even minor reductions in the possibility of a successful attack that come at the cost of significant inconvenience when traveling might seem like a reasonable trade-off. Which was more annoying in the last 8 years, taking your shoes off to fly, or the Iraq war?

That's not an argument against saying that these measures are pretty ineffective (they are) or that you can't prevent terrorist attacks (you can't) or that we should react less crazily when they occur (we should). I cheer any such argument because I could really care less about the occasional terrorist attack, and I think that they'd stop trying if we paid less attention. But it is to say that the actions of the TSA reflect the incentives in place right now, and are not completely crazy given those incentives.

Schneier's point about the only two things that prevent more 9/11-type attacks being reinforced cockpit doors and passenger resistance is of course true. We seem to have collectively decided that that isn't good enough, to our collective inconvenience.

#54 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 02:35 PM:

Er, #16, not #14. Carry on.

#55 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 02:36 PM:

It occurs to me that if there had been a TSA back in January 1974 I'd have been questioned upon arrival in Honolulu, since my luggage contained only one change of underwear and no other clothing.

Why? My entire seabag full of (dirty) civilian clothes was stolen out of my car two nights before I left Japan for thirty days leave. I've occasionally wondered just what the thief thought as he looked at such things as t-shirts reading "Greek Week 1972" on their fronts.

#56 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 02:36 PM:

Rikibeth @ 51: "Pop Muzik" was a bona-fide top 40 hit with AM airplay, so you might have heard it in 1979 after all.

#57 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 02:55 PM:

Craig R #42: When I send one of my harps through the x-ray machine, I tell the TSA person: "It's a little harp, just like the angels play." Most people have seen pictures of angels playing small harps, so they have a frame of reference. Las time I went to Ireland, the Atlanta TSA guy asked, "But what do they play in the other place?" "Accordions," said I.

That trip turned out to be an entirely satisfactory experience with the Delta and TSA personnel, who all went out of their way to accomodate me and the harp. It is possible, just unexpected.

I wanted to gate check the harp rather than consigning it to the entire baggage handling system, hence the trip through TSA. The airline personnel were concerned that the flight case would be too big to fit through the machine, but once I convinced them and the TSA rep that I would not object to it being hand-inspected, they were okay with it. I'm sure they expected me to wig out at the hand inspection. As it turned out, the flight case did fit through the machine, and then the nice Delta folks told me I could take it aboard, where they stowed it in an empty crew luggage compartment. I know enough musicians to know this is not normal, but it sure was nice of them. The return flight was crowded and the harp had to go in cargo, but it did just fine.

#58 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 03:01 PM:

I understand that Yo-Yo Ma buys a seat for his cello when he travels.

#59 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 03:02 PM:

Tracie @ #57, and Hell's theme song is "Lady of Spain?"

#60 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 03:17 PM:

Steve C @#58 -

That's standard procedure, but anyone who's not Yo Yo Ma may find traveling with a cello to be onerous. The airline may say "buy a seat", but when you get there, some member of the crew can tell you to check it, even if you've got a whole separate ticket. And then there's the matter of the endpin, which is metal (or carbon fiber in my case) and extremely pointy.

Last time I visited my parents I had them rent me a cello if they wanted to hear me play; I wouldn't want to gate check even my crappy instrument.

And re: the scanners. They cannot detect anything that's been hidden in an orifice or under fat rolls - which include boobs - so I suppose I should expect a grope and flab-lifting festivities after the first chubbo sneaks a knitting needle onto a plane.

#61 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 04:06 PM:

ABI: (# 42)

"..You know, if you're going to cast aspersions on the Netherlands because government officials say stupid stuff, I'm going open the door to similar comments about America. Then we can have a nice little flame war..."

Why a flame war? The USA authorities *do* indeed say stupid stuph ("toasted testicle terrorist will get on the planes if we let the TSA unionize") *all the time*

Now, if this were the TSA and state-side airports involved, I'd say that the push for using the whole-body scanners was *because* they had gone ahead and bought the scanners ahead of time, without figuring on the privacy-grounds opposition (or opposition because of the child-porn-application), and they needed to SHow That This Was Money Well Spent

#62 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 04:39 PM:

Xopher (#44)

To *me* it looks obvious it's used to produce musical noise.

I have, several times, offered to take it out of the bag before it goes through the x-ray machine, but always was told not to, so now I don't bother -- and I know it's coming out of the carrysack anyway before I'm through.


Nancy Mittens (# 52) -- I've had mine for about 20 years now, and this past summer took my heart in my hands and tore it down and rebuilt it, because the pin-block (the end where the strings are anchored) finally succumed to the Physics Of Tension and started to rotate out as the glue was failng. I am not a proficient woodworker, and I *d***ed* sure am not a luthier, but I had pretty good results in the teardown and rebuild.

The replacement strings (actually, the the replacements are steel guitar strings of the appropriate diameter, and steel strings can produce a *lot* of tension) still haven't settled down to being fully stable (about 1/2 of the strings from before the teardown were the originals, and had not needed to be replaced before this)

Perhaps I'll post some video on you-tube

Tracie (# 57)

I take it you have a "folk" harp or other "lap" harp?

Since it's not a popular enough instrument to have 3rd parties making travel cases, I had to sew mine own. A small harp like that (it's about 20" high x 12" wide and 3" in deep) is pretty quiet, and it's relaxing for me when I am in travel down-time (as well as I like playing it, and we all know the best way to Carnegie Hall).

In. re.: accordians /*snort*/

(coincidentally, the first musical instrument I learned to play was a piano accordian)

(At least practice for that is less ear-cracking than a newcomer practicing the trombone -- which was the instrument I was assigned in band)

#63 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 05:46 PM:

Tracie #57: I thought it was well known that the preferred musical instrument in hell was the pibroch.

#64 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 06:32 PM:

Fragano, that's in the English hell. It's the instrument of choice in the Scots heaven.

#65 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 06:35 PM:

Craig @61:
The comment about the Gong Show was—or read as—a generalized insult to the Dutch people as a whole.

Government officials say dorky things all over the globe. There's no call to sideswipe the taste or sense of whole countries as a result.

#67 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 06:48 PM:

Abi (#65)
Please look at the sentence again. It references the dutch *governmemnt officials,* not the duch nation as a whole.

If the Netherlands' authorities think that any part of the Toasted Testicle Terrorist incident was "professional" I *really* don't want to know what their version of the Gong Show is like.

Now, I read and write in ('merricun) English.

The general understanding I would carry from the quoted sentence is that the subject in both phrases is the "authorities," as those entities are mentioned specificially in the first part, and the second part of the sentence uses "their" as the subject, with the inference being that, again, the "authorities" are the parties referenced.

If I'm being imprecise, please show how, without my being extra wordy, that sentence could be improved?

(and no, I'm not being snarky, I'm interested)

Is there a linguistric difference between English and Dutch that would provide such a confusion between classes ("authorities" v "entire Dutch population")?

#68 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 06:59 PM:

Craig R (67): I am not abi, but there is a certain ambiguity as to whether 'their' is referring to 'Netherlands' (meaning the people as a whole) or to 'authorities'. (For the record, I read it the way you intended it.)

#69 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 07:04 PM:

Craig R @67:

Government authorities do not produce TV shows. That factual content creates an implicit shift in the antecedent of "their" from the Dutch officials to the nation as a whole. It's exactly the sort of antecedent switch that occurs all the time in casual speech, and the entire comment read as casual rather than considered writing.

This isn't me misinterpreting a sentence because I'm operating in my second language; I'm a native speaker of English. I'm not a writer or editor, I'm not at Teresa's level of subtlety with English, but I do flatter myself that my linguistic skills are relatively good. And that was the natural read of that sentence.

The best way to improve it would be to choose an example of judgment or taste that would reflect on Ter Horst himself. Car? Clothing? Choice of plumbers? "If that's his idea of a professional, I wonder who he gets to do his taxes?"

#70 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 07:12 PM:

My friends, it was a communication glitch.

Craig R did not intend to call the Dutch people stupid. abi's reading of the sentence was not unreasonable.

It was all a misunderstanding. To whose benefit is this continued discussion of whose fault it is?

In other words, could we drop it, please? No one acted with malice here, and the question of which party/ies made an honest and well-intentioned error isn't interesting enough to be worth the bad temper it costs to discuss.

#71 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 07:31 PM:

Xopher @ 70... Well said. I was beginning to think I should threaten to inflict punfire.

#72 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 07:36 PM:

I think we've each said enough to see the world as the other saw it, which is the logical stopping point in these discussions.

But it's important to get to this point. I can now see how Craig saw what he wrote, and I hope he can see how I saw what I did when I read it. And that's how you really finish a misunderstanding: by clearing it up.

I appreciate the peacemaking, gentlemen.

#73 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 08:26 PM:

#60 ::: nerdycellist

My husband can't travel with his Ramirez guitar, which is his primary performing instrument because of all the reasons you mention.

Even though it fits with case in the overhead bins of most planes, and if not, upright in the hanging bins at the front, sometimes the attendents insist that it doesn't, and it just gets sent away to baggage.

Even his travel guitar got smashed, despite its hard case when it wasn't allowed in the cabin, despite it fitting.

And no, the airline (JetBlue) wouldn't pay for it.

Love, c.

#74 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 10:58 PM:

Tim Walters @56: Not on WHDH in Boston, I wouldn't have. My embarrassingly thorough knowledge of Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond songs can be traced to their playlist.

#75 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 11:01 PM:

Oh, but wait, there's more (and I encourage you to read the whole link, if your outrage is not yet cranked to 11): TSA Threatens Blogger Who Posted New Screening Directive - the blogger in question was the blogger at KLA.

God damn I thought we were electing competence back in 2008. I guess I was wrong.

#76 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 11:19 PM:

Rikibeth @ 74: At least Neil Diamond is intermittently awesome. Manilow, well... I have a sneaking fondness for "Mandy", but that's it. (I also like that Kate Bush copped (and improved) the chorus in "Wuthering Heights.")

#77 ::: Lisa Padol ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 11:23 PM:

Okay, so, Josh and I are flying to Georgia for GAFilk and to Seattle for Conflikt in January. These are domestic flights for us. Where do I check the current restrictions, requirements, wait times, und so weiter?

#78 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 11:30 PM:

Lisa @77 - nothing's really changed for domestic flights. Give it two hours to be on the safe side, and don't pack liquids in your carry-on, and you're good to go. (We've just flown to Puerto Rico for the holidays.)

#79 ::: Lisa Padol ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 12:11 AM:

Michael @#78: Thanks. I find I tend to fall asleep on planes. I've sort of gotten a pattern of inverting my packing until after the security checkpoint, putting the stuff I'd usually put in small tote bag (food, stuffie, spare book) into my back pack, and putting all electronics into the tote bag for easier spreading out in the bins. Liquids are in their zip lock bag -- eye drops and Purell, as well as pills.

I think I'll still have to check stuff for the filking conventions, but so it goes. That'll be clothing and foodstuffs.

I remember the 2006 WorldCon, which was when the liquid / gel rules had just been established. I held an allergy pill in my hand, as it was a "gel kapseal", and I asked at every checkpoint if it was okay to carry it on, fully prepared to be a sheep and surrender it.

Everyone started at me and said, "Lady, that's a pill. It's fine."

I had to restrain myself from understandable-but-uncalled for yelling along the lines of, "Don't look at me like that! The rules keep changing, and it said 'gel' on the package! How am I to know if one of you guys will decide it's a huge terrorist threat?" These were not the people making the rules, and they were not giving me trouble.

#80 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 01:14 AM:

Michael Roberts (#75) --
Don't forget that the majority of the staffers at TSA (and the rest of DHS) are holdovers from the previous administration.

ANd the KLM writer is perfectly correct -- if you send a "security directive" to 10,000-plus recipients, including to the nations where the security threats originate, and nations friendly to "the cause" you really cannot be taken seriously if you try to claim that the information needs to be "secret"

(And I wonder if the subpoenas presented were actually within the law -- it's not unknown for subpoenas to be worded in ways that actually would involve violation of federal law if actually invoked)

In a way that seems appropriate to my sick mind, I've been watching "Beat the Devil" on TCM.

#81 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 01:31 AM:

Jacob #53:

I agree that in the immediate aftermath of the attempted attack, that sort of rule wasn't crazy. It had two effects:

a. If someone was trying to follow a certain script with a similar attack, it might mess them up somehow.

b. It demonstrated to frightened flyers that Something Was Being Done.

I suspect (b) was much more important than (a).

Do you know of any polls or other data on this question? I mean, your description seemed right to me--I think the majority of flyers probably do want the security theater--but I'm not sure. The interviewed passengers I saw on network TV somehow had the feel of propoganda to me. ("I'm glad they're here doing all this, it's worth it to me to feel safer.") I wondered how many passengers they had to interview to get the answers they were looking for.

The problem with changing the rules regularly is that it inconveniences not only the terrorists (as far as we can tell, something less than one flyer in a billion), it also inconveniences other travelers. I'm a pretty experienced traveler. The way I pack my bags and plan out my travel is based heavily on what I expect the rules to be. This is a lot of what lets me be very comfortable and enjoy most flights. If I had no idea what to expect, this would make flying much less pleasant. (And this has happened--more security theater has made the whole experience more stressful and unpredictable.)

This gets much worse for people traveling with kids. (No, Billy, you can't read your book, it's against the rules. And the TV isn't on, either. Just sit quietly here for the next hour with your hands folded.) And much, much worse for people with health problems that require some level of predictability. (See how many 60 year old men fly on your plane, if you routinely refuse access to the bathroom for 90 minutes at a stretch.)

I have a feeling that a lot of the security theater serves to calm passengers' anxiety, which is partly about terrorists, but probably more about either a fear of heights, motion sickness, or the stressfulness and unpredictability of flying. And I wonder if we couldn't do away with some of the security theater by also decreasing the level of unpredictability of the whole experience you have flying each time. I mean, simple stuff like predictably having blankets and food available on the plane, not surprising passengers by hitting them up for some extra money for various random things, having the boarding process be somewhat predictable and consistent, maybe getting rid of the stupid checked bag charge so there's room for carry on luggage, etc.

#82 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 01:33 AM:

Craig R.:

At least practice for that is less ear-cracking than a newcomer practicing the trombone -- which was the instrument I was assigned in band

I was a trombonist: would still be one if I could afford to get the slide fixed. That being said, I was once visiting some friends who are professional musicians and who hold a massive sort of hootnanny at their house once a year. I wandered into the small basement, where three digiridoo players were droning away, and saw two other people open their cases and begin to assemble their bagpipes. Words cannot describe how fast I got up those basement stairs...

#83 ::: Jeff Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 02:38 AM:

For what it's worth, I flew Tucson-Denver-Vancouver today. It was probably the least eventful international flight I've ever been on: no pat-downs, no extra bag searches, no new restrictions on carry-ons. There were no lines at all at the Tucson airport. I read a book for most of the flight; during the second leg, the passengers on either side of me spent most of their time on laptops without any hassle from the crew. Had I been traveling in the opposite direction, or just within Canada, the experience would no doubt have been rather less pleasant ... which goes to show how limited the new measures are.

#84 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 09:31 AM:

Bruce @82: indeed, even a well-played set of bagpipes is NOT an instrument for small, enclosed spaces. I was at a convention party once -- in a room, mind you, not even a suite -- that was visited by pipers. And they were GOOD pipers! But the phrase "wall of sound" was a laughable understatement.

#85 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 10:40 AM:

Rikibeth, have you learned ASL, or have you chosen a more oralist approach?

#86 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 11:04 AM:

Xopher, my hearing recovered, but I was definitely relying on supplemental lip-reading to make sense of conversation for the next few hours!

(Hush, you. WITH MY EYES.)

#87 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 11:33 AM:

Bruce E. Durocher II @82: I wandered into the small basement, where three digiridoo players were droning away [..]

I initially visualized bullroarers, which are definitely not the instrument for a small basement.

#88 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 12:31 PM:

Rikibeth #84:

Not as dramatic, but we had aisle seats for the Celtic Christmas in the local (not huge at all) cathedral a couple of weeks ago. The proceedings (im)proper began with the procession of the pipes and drums down the aisle. Took a couple of minutes to recover our hearing ... and I *like* bagpipes!

#89 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 01:14 PM:

A musician has moved in next door. I've talked to him a couple of times. He specializes in Celtic music, and plays all sorts of instruments, including a Galician gaita. Very enthusiastic guy. During one conversation, outdoors in front of the houses, he said, "I've got my gaita right here in my car! I'll show you!" His landlady had just gone out of the house for a walk. He looked very carefully to make sure she was around the corner, then played a few notes. Yowza. It's small, but it really packs a punch. "She won't let me practice this one in the apartment," he muttered.

#90 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 01:21 PM:

I have fond memories of the didg-and-trombone ensemble that would practice their drones in the echoey stairways of the music building at Mills. Some people say "didgeridon't," but not me!

#91 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 01:28 PM:

Somewhere there is a TSA official reading this thread, and nodding, and writing down on a little pad of paper: Bagpipes

#92 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 01:43 PM:

A low D tin whistle looks very much like a pipe bomb when X-rayed.

#93 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 01:58 PM:

Rikibeth:

I have been in smaller bathrooms than that basement. I like the digiridoo. I like the bagpipes. I also like to avoid my earwax vibrating out of my ears...

Rob Rusick:

If they'd tried to use a bullroarer it would have been in a 3' radius, which would certainly have resulted in listener casualties, what with bouncing it off of both pillars and listeners.

#94 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 03:18 PM:

Bruce @ #93, "I also like to avoid my earwax vibrating out of my ears..."

Hey, it's better (well, it's different, anyway) than if you put something smaller than your elbow in there.

#95 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 03:41 PM:

Debbie, #89: Went to your link. Listened to the sound sample. Thought, "Hey, that sounds a lot like Hevia!" I was right. He plays a gaita, too.

#96 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 03:53 PM:

Xopher #64: Perhaps so. In my own version of heaven an entirely different instrument will be played.

#97 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 04:29 PM:

Yesterday I flew from Nashville to Kansas City; no problems in security to speak of, and nothing peculiar on the flight, in terms of dos and don'ts. In fact, the security lines in Nashville were fairly relaxed; I don't know if that's because the local TSA head doesn't feel that he has to push his people to be bullies in order to "prove" they are doing things the right way, or what. The metal detectors were on high, however--there were several people who had to make repeat trips, shedding harmless metal bits as they went.

#98 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 04:53 PM:

Speaking of shedding harmless bits of metal, I may never fly again, but I figure that I should still invest in airport-friendly suspenders just in case.

#99 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 06:12 PM:

Craig R #62: The harp in question is larger than a lap harp, 45" tall, and I sit it on the floor to play, though some people might raise it on stool 6 or so inches (or play on a lower chair). The flight case has 6" of padding all around, making it taller than I am (I'm 5'4"). The size of it makes the airline's accommodations fairly amazing.

My two medieval harps are both small enough to fit overhead in their carrying cases, although neither actually fits in the carry-on baggage measuring device. My other smaller lever harp fits overhead if I take it out of the case *and* it is the first thing into the bin *and* I make sure no one slings a briefcase onto it. I just had it refurbished, and I'm not planning to fly with it any time soon. I also have a larger lever harp and a renaissance cross strung harp, both about 5' tall, that don't fly.

By the way, do you have a copy of the "AFM/TSA letter? I always carry several copies when I fly with an instrument. It documents an agreement between TSA and the American Federation of Musicians that allows airlines to permit musicians to carry on an instrument (within reason) in addition to their one piece of carry-on luggage. The agreement does not *require* the airline to do this, but most musicians, airline personnel and TSA personnel interpret it that way, and I am not about to disabuse them of that notion. I carry several copies because it is not uncommon for airline or TSA personnel not to know about it, and I've been asked if I had a copy they could keep. There is useful information on traveling with instruments from Indie-Music and League of American Orchestras.

#100 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 08:21 PM:

Today I flew from Toronto to California.

Flights from Canada to the US are currently under a "no carry-ons allowed" rule (with 13 exceptions, each with variants depending on who is interpreting the rules). Books are not in the 13.

I lawful-goodly packed according to their rules, but I carried books with me in checked-luggage, and moved them to carry-on at the appropriate point during security*. I didn't ask-as-such to carry a book**, more of a "I'm going to move this book into my purse now."

I had psyched myself for the possibility of airport-magazine based reading***.

---------
* CA airports have US customs inside, so one drops off checked luggage after customs but before standard security. The enhanced patdown and deep-pocket inspections happened after regular security and just before the gates in each terminal.

** it still felt like I was asking, but I made sure I worded it so I was merely telling.

*** The magazine/book place had only one paperback SFF book: it had the word "Shannara" in the title.

#101 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 05:29 AM:

@98 -- And under "bagpipes", the TSA employee adds "suspenders" to the list. Because anything specifically made to NOT trip metal detectors HAS to be subversive. Not to mention that the company ships everywhere. Suspicious, that.

#102 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 06:25 AM:

My quarter-century-old walnut cane doesn't have any metal in it eith-- oh, crud, it does. The rubber cane tip has a metal washer inside it to make it last longer. It's not easy to remove for inspection, either; the last time I replaced my cane tip, I had to cut it off in chunks.

#103 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 08:20 AM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale @ 100... The magazine/book place had only one paperback SFF book: it had the word "Shannara" in the title.

Urp!

#104 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 10:31 AM:

Aaaand "public outcry" causes TSA to revoke the subpoenas and apologize.

Truly this is an incomprehensible world we are living in.

#105 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 10:33 AM:

Ha. I just read the caption on the picture for the article I just linked: "TSA Special Agent John Enright, left, speaks to Steven Frischling outside the blogger".

Which implies that it would have been an option to speak inside the blogger, which ... is either frightening or sort of yucky, or both.

#106 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 04:34 PM:

Michael roberts (# 104)
And both writers are now having trouble using their hard drives.

First, it isn't that hard to image-copy a hard drive from a laptop. and if they were screwing up sectors more was done than a simple sector-by-sector copy.

Second, if some yo-yo decided that they would insert some sort of "extra hardware" into the laptop (IMO very unlikly), they did a really poor job -- screwing around in a way to prevent the use of the computer in question will surely bring attention to what was done.

So, just *what* was done to these machines? Any just why did the TSA think they had to do it?

#107 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 04:34 PM:

Michael roberts (# 104)
And both writers are now having trouble using their hard drives.

First, it isn't that hard to image-copy a hard drive from a laptop. and if they were screwing up sectors more was done than a simple sector-by-sector copy.

Second, if some yo-yo decided that they would insert some sort of "extra hardware" into the laptop (IMO very unlikly), they did a really poor job -- screwing around in a way to prevent the use of the computer in question will surely bring attention to what was done.

So, just *what* was done to these machines? Any just why did the TSA think they had to do it?

#108 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 07:32 PM:

Hardware keylogger? Say, where have I heard that one before? heh.

#109 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 07:33 PM:

Michael Roberts #105: it's just a truncation, sorry. Showed as "blogger's house" when I looked at the article.

Craig R #106: My guess is ham-handed removal and insertion of the drive (damaging the connections) and/or rough handling while they had it out and connected to their own machine (damaging the drive itself). Either way, it fits in with the attitude of hostility shown by the TSA goons.

#110 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 08:53 PM:

They threatened him with putting him on the no-fly list, thus making his work as a travel blogger nearly impossible. That's the kind of extralegal crap that America was designed to prevent.

Bastards.

#111 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 10:07 PM:

Michael Roberts @110: It also demonstrates quite clearly why it should not be easy to put someone on the no-fly list, in contrast to all the people demanding that DHS ought to have had Abdulmutallab on that very list immediately upon notification from his own father.

The no-fly list should never be used as a threat, because instantaneously you have invalidated this list and negated its potential use. It is now suspect, and everyone on that list could sue to be removed. After all, it was obviously some TSA "special agent" who put your name on that list, in retribution, and the TSA will have to revalidate those names.

Congratulations, Special Agent John Enright! You've just made life much more difficult for your agency and made everyone around you look like idiots.

#112 ::: VictorS ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2010, 09:27 AM:

Flying to California from Paris yesterday, all passengers got a luggage check and a pat-down/wanding at the gate. We got to CDG about 3 hours in advance of our flight, and got through final screening about 30 minutes before scheduled boarding. The plane was delayed an hour due to extra screening. There were no new restrictions on hand luggage, and the rest of the flight was normal. I thank the French for letting me keep my shoes on at all times.

#113 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2010, 10:33 AM:

Ginger @ 111... it should not be easy to put someone on the no-fly list

Didn't Ted Kennedy temporarily wind up on the no-fly list? I expect some moron got an earful out of that one.

#114 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2010, 10:44 AM:

Serge@113:

Didn't Ted Kennedy temporarily wind up on the no-fly list?

It depends on what you mean. Someone with that name was put on the list, causing travel problems for everyone with that name. I don't think the late Senator was the person who was put on the list, but he did get stopped at an airport because his name matched.

#115 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2010, 10:59 AM:

Xopher@39:
Will having internal metal bits make it dangerous to be scanned by them?

No. Millimeter/terahertz microwaves don't penetrate the body (that's more or less the point, and the reason for the privacy issues). They are absorbed fairly strongly by water.

#116 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2010, 11:01 AM:

114
Apparently the problem is that the list is just that: names with no other identifying information. They can't put identifying information on it because then the terrorists might find out they're on the list, or some such silly lack of logic. (If the terrorists get hold of a no-fly list with identifying information, your problems are a lot bigger than you thought.)

#117 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2010, 11:48 AM:

Thomas @ 114... Thanks for the correction. Still, I wonder if some moron tried to keep the late Senator from boarding a plane even after it was explained to him who this Ted Kennedy was.

#118 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2010, 11:50 AM:

The US Government needs a de-neoconification purging, bigtime, from ALL branches, and of course ESPECIALLY the judicial branch. Alito and Scalia and Roberts and Kennedy and Thomas get to tell me what I can and can't have growing in my guts sometime after they're on a forced non-lacto-ovarian vegetarian diet for the rest of their lives because there are religious groups which consider it completely immoral to eat meat, eggs, milk, fish, etc., only and solely fruit and vegetables with seasoning which is chemicals such as salt, vinegar, plant spices, etc., on them. Their intransigance regarding commerce and corporate behavior (treatment of workers tantamount to slavery doesn't seem to bother them.... hmm, did they say anything about the forced abortions in the factories in the Marianas? Oh, right, those weren't really {major sarcastic revolted tone involved here{ -people-, they were women from China imported under restrictive work visas....) similar comments apply to....

#119 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2010, 01:39 PM:

Serge #113: Didn't Ted Kennedy temporarily wind up on the no-fly list?

I think that incident was a punitive Republican dirty trick. After all the other crimes the Bush administration committed, politicizing the no-fly list would have been a mere back-slapper over booze and cigars at the club.

#120 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2010, 01:53 PM:

Thomas, #114: Thus neatly illustrating the reason that the no-fly list, in its current configuration, is fucking useless. Anybody with half a brain is capable of understanding that a name alone is not a unique descriptor! But nooo, the TSA is apparently composed of less-than-halfwits.

#121 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2010, 06:52 PM:

Ummm, why would someone who wanted to board a plane with nefarious intent use their own name anyway?

#122 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2010, 10:24 PM:

Because al Qaeda's fake ID counterfeiters are every bit as capable and competent as their underwear bomb designers?

#123 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2010, 10:53 PM:

P J Evans @ 116:

It's worse than that. In some past inquiry, it came out that the intelligence agencies do not and are not allowed to put the names of actual suspected terrorists onto the no-fly list, because that would mean disclosing classified intelligence to the general public. So most actual suspected terrorists' names are not put on the list. Terrorists known to be dead are OK to put on the list, though.

#124 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2010, 10:59 PM:

Clifford, in that case, they might as well round-file that list, because it's only good for recycling.
Well, having it around might keep some people from peeing their pants from fear of eeevil ter'rists.

#125 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 07:13 AM:

Earl Cooley #121 - if you're dead after your plane attack, what does it matter that they work out it was you that did it several days later, by which time your friends would have left the country. That is, if you have any friends.

#126 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 03:05 PM:

guthrie @ 125:

They could use the list to make sure that no godless terrorist is buried in sanctified ground. Oh, wait, the terrorists are all very religious.

#127 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 04:46 PM:

Steven desJardins @ 122... their underwear bomb designers

Fruit of the Boom?

#128 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 05:18 PM:

Josh Marshall, quoting the TSA:

Because effective aviation security must begin beyond our borders, and as a result of extraordinary cooperation from our global aviation partners, TSA is mandating that every individual flying into the U.S. from anywhere in the world traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening. The directive also increases the use of enhanced screening technologies and mandates threat-based and random screening for passengers on U.S. bound international flights. ***

Because terrorists can't travel to other countries. I wonder what this means for journalists, hmmm?

#130 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 08:00 PM:

From the FWIW file:

Didn't notice any changes in procedure or in intensity of scrutiny checking in at HPN yesterday.

#131 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 10:01 PM:

Department of Making A Bad Idea Worse:

The U.S. government lowered the threshold for putting suspicious individuals on a watch-list or no-fly list, or having their visas revoked, State Department officials say.
#132 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 10:17 PM:

... Because of course the problem isn't that the watch/no-fly list is so big that they can't identify the real threats, it's that the list doesn't have everyone on it who could possibly be a threat at some time. /s

#133 ::: Kevin Reid ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 08:13 AM:

On instruments not suitable for small spaces (#88 etc):

I went to see a certain musical performance — I forget the name — and there was this particular segment: The performers have gone off stage, and there is nothing in particular happening. So it's just a little break, right?

BANG.

Eep. That wasn't coming from the stage. Must have been some accident elsewhere in the building. That was a little rattling and rather unpleasant—

BANG.

Agh. Heart pounds. Where is — it's coming from the back of the auditorium. They've got a really big drum back there.

BANG.

They're having a procession down the stairs. Ten feet from my seat. With a really big drum. And I'm sitting here still thoroughly rattled, not to ment

BANG.

e continuing effect of the drum; it's less alarming now that I know what it is, but still rather loud-and-sharp for the environment.

I managed to settle down and enjoy the rest of the show, but the first few minutes of that part were Not Fun.

#134 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 11:57 AM:

Earl Cooley III (#119)

I think that incident was a punitive Republican dirty trick.

Much As I'd like to scoff at the idea, it was the petty vindictivness of Newt G. that caused a shutdown of the whole Federal budget one year because he had been relegated to the back of Air Force 1

#135 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2010, 06:08 AM:

Lee @45:
"Great Balls o' Fire!"

#136 ::: Leroy sees apparent spam ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2010, 02:39 AM:

Anyone need some sample text to represent the output of a malfunctioning third-rate AI?

#137 ::: Melody sees more link spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2011, 08:10 AM:

Melody also thinks that link spammers need better writers.

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