Monthly Archives: October 2006

John Kerry's Size 11 Mouth Gag

Sen. John Kerry decided to put his foot into his mouth, right up to the ankle yesterday.  Here’s the quote:  "You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq."

Of course President JoJo the Idiot Boy got up on his back legs to bark that Sen. Kerry was badmouthing the troops, was a disloyal American and that voting Democrat was a vote to abandon the troops.  Naturally that sound bite got a lot of applause at a Republican event in Georgia.

I’m not going to defend Sen. Kerry’s remarks as they are at best, elitist, divisive, insensitive and politically dumb. 

However, I am going to take much umbrage at Dubya.  Dubya cannot call anyone who served in the American Armed Forces disloyal.  Kerry actually went.  Dubya dodged.  Kerry got shot at.  Dubya didn’t take a flight physical.  Kerry disagreed with the Viet Nam war after he came home.  Dubya got the records expunged, and a free pass because of Daddy.  Simply put, Dubya should shut his pie hole about being a patriot, if he had a lick of sense or honour.

Now as for Sen. Kerry.  If you want to crap over the US governments’ Iraq policy and the fumblehanded running of the war by Rumsfeld, Rove, Cheney and President JoJo The Idiot Boy, go ahead.  That’s like shooting fish in a barrel.  Just replay the clips on WMD’s being on every streetcorner.  Just replay the clips of JoJo and Cheney assuring everyone that Saddam and Osama were buddies bent on world domination.  Replay the "Mission Accomplished" stunt of The War President landing on the Teddy Roosevelt. 

Hell, just let JoJo The Idiot Boy talk for six minutes about anything that Rove will pop into his head.  You’ll have plenty of points to ream the Republicans on. 

But John, please put your shoe back in your mouth and sit down.  What you said was unfair to every soldier who has served.  I might not agree with the reasons why the US and Canada are in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But I will support those who are serving, as they are serving out of a sense of duty.  The Generals and the Political Bosses deserve our scorn, in heapin’ helpin’s of unpleasantness.  The boots on the ground deserve our support. 

I can live with that inconsistency.

Fixing Air Safety

In the previous post I stuck a needle in the eye of CATSA and the TSA for the bullshit theatre they call passenger screening at airports.  I’m now obligated to tell them how to fix it.

One:  Nobody gets into the airport without a reservation or a ticket for that day.  No more tearful goodbyes from Aunt Hazel and Uncle Bert; that can happen out at the curb.  Only people with legitimate business in the terminal are allowed in the terminal.  If you have to see someone off, for example a relative in a wheelchair, you get an escort the whole way.  Your minder will be watching you and, occasionally, helping, but don’t bet on it.  The minder is there to make sure you don’t do anything other than help Grandma.  When you’re done, you get escorted out.   

Start the screening process in the lineup to get your boarding pass.  El-Al does this all the time.  Who are you?  Where are flying?  Why are you flying there?  Who are you going to see?  Show me your passport, driver’s license and another form of ID.  What are you taking to your destination?  Where did you get it?  Who packed it for you?  Who else is traveling with you?  Who is going to meet you at the airport?  How did you pay for your ticket?  What is in your bag?  Why are you taking those kinds of gifts? Where did you get them? 

These questions are posed by CATSA/TSA inspectors as you are waiting in line.  The inspectors are looking for your reactions and answers.  Some folks will be asked dozens of questions, others just a few; it might even depend on the vibe the inspectors are getting from you.  Answers that make no sense, or don’t seem to add up, will get you pulled out of line for further questioning. 

As an example, a couple with an infant who don’t have diapers with them would be pulled for questioning.  It makes no sense for someone with an infant to travel without diapers, even on a Toronto – Ottawa hop.  Since it makes no sense, it needs investigation.  If the answer is "we forgot them at home" and the rest of the story makes sense, then fine, on you way, enjoy your trip.  There’s no penalty for being a dumb human, but we want to know why.   

Two: No online boarding passes.  No home-printed boarding passes.  No kiosk check-in.  You have to present your smiling face and ID to a human to get your boarding pass.  The format of the boarding passes will change often.  There will be security features built into them, much like we have security features built into currency to prevent forgery.  After you get your boarding pass and your baggage goes into the hole in the wall, you go immediately into Security.  You don’t get to walk around and hang out.  You go immediately to Security with your carryon. 

Three: Professional screeners.  Expect the x-ray and magnetometer process to take about sixty seconds.  Expect to be patted down if you seem even slightly suspicious.  Expect the same questions you were asked in the lineup to get your boarding pass.  The answers should be close enough to the same you gave outside.  If the answers don’t add up, expect to be interviewed at length.  Expect someone to hand-search your carryon if they feel even vaguely concerned.  Expect to be asked to turn on your laptop, camera, C-PAP machine, or whatever other gizmo you have in your carryon.  We want to see it work. 

If you need to carry specialized tools or gear as part of your job, you can apply for a permit.  Expect CATSA or the TSA to very closely quiz you about every potential reason why you need a permit.  We will want to know you very well before we consider giving you a permit.     

Four: Isolate the security zone and secure it from anything outside the security zone.  That means drapes, frosted glass, walls or physical barriers.  Treat it like a Customs Hall:  Secure and Sanitized.  You cannot see into a Customs hall for a very good reason:  It prevents criminals from seeing how the procedure is working on that day.  It prevents criminals from observing patterns of security searches and makes the whole process more secure. 

Five:  X-ray and physically inspect all baggage and freight going into airplanes.  Not a representative sample:  All of it needs a mark on it somewhere that it has been inspected.  No mark?  It doesn’t fly.  There should be a number of people patrolling the baggage makeup rooms to ensure that bags are as secure as they can be.  This will also prevent baggage from being stolen, misdirected, pilfered or lost.  You might actually be able to check things of value in your bags, with a reasonable assumption it will make it to your destination.  Needless to say, positive bag match happens.

Six:  Comprehensive background checks and security checks for anyone working airside at an airport.  That means ramp rats, fuelers, cargo yobs, technicians, groomers, service personnel and every single solitary person working at every little kiosk, store, folding cart, duty-free shop, shoeshine stand and popcorn wagon.  Nobody gets past security without a pass and the format of the pass will change several times a year.  It might be like a transit pass.  The photo will be highly secured but the bottom half will change often.  The two had better match or you will have some industrial-strength explaining to do.

Every last box of coffee, bottled water, bag of flour or frozen french fries must be inspected, wanded, sifted through and gone over just like luggage and carryon bags. 

Expect to be challenged to show your ID and pass at least a couple of times a day as an employee of anything airside.  Expect to be questioned as to who your supervisor is, what your next task is and where you clock in and out.  Expect the same security treatment leaving the job at the end of the day.  Show your pass, expect to be x-rayed and patted down.  This will cut airport thievery down to nothing.  

This includes flight crew and cabin crew.  Sorry, no free pass because you drive airplanes or do the demonstration thing with the margarine container and the plastic hose.

Seven:  Spot checks for passengers after you’re past Security.  Expect the same questions you were asked in the lineup for your boarding pass.  Perhaps a few less, maybe a few more.  We want to make sure you belong there.   

Eight:  A sanitized perimeter around all airports.  Physical security is easy to do.  Nothing should be within ten meters of a fence for any reason.  The fences should be patrolled often, especially near the cargo terminals.  If you want to loiter around the perimeter of an airport, be prepared to be asked why and to explain yourself.  If you’re a plane watcher, like I am, expect to be treated rudely from time to time.  An airport that I won’t name has a cargo area that I could breach by jumping on the top of a truck parked right next to the fence.  If I could figure out how to beat their security, then a determined bad guy will. 

Nine:  Rotate the inspectors.  One week it is the primary line.  Next week, cargo.  The week after, baggage makeup, or walking the ramp.  This way the patterns don’t develop as readily.  Patterns are what the bad guys look for.  New sets on eyes on established patterns means nobody takes anything for granted, or "that’s just the way it is around here"

Ten:  The security briefing for passengers will include a simple statement.  "We’re not opening the cockpit door for anything or anyone.  If there is an attempted hijacking, or hostage taking, we’re going to land at the nearest airport, in a very big hurry, so have your seatbelt on, or be prepared to be tossed to the ceiling.  If you’re a hostage, kiss you ass goodbye.  This door does not open as of now."

There you go.  How to fix airport security. 

Now, I’ll explain why it will never happen.  First, the current system is all about appearances, not actual security.  Real security involves a lot of people being inquisitive, asking a lot of pointed questions, looking for sensible answers and putting the brakes on the process if the answers don’t make sense.

The current system is about controlling people for appearances.  My system is about airport security.

The current system is cheap, repetitive and easy to bamboozle.  My system is only slightly more expensive but provides several times the security of the current system.  Incidentally, I want every CATSA or TSA person paid a lot more than minimum wage.  I want them motivated to catch the bad guys, not arguing about breaks or overtime. 

The current system is dependent on technology to answer people questions.  My system uses people to answer people questions.  People work better than technology almost every time when it comes to security.

The current system is not flexible enough.  My system can turn on a dime and leave 11 cents change as you can modify the rules of engagement by the hour if you want to.  As an example, looking at the answers your terminal screeners are getting regarding why you are traveling. 

If the terminal screeners see many people with the same reason for traveling, start asking more questions about it.  You will see patterns emerge, for instance at the holiday season, or big conventions.  That makes sense and is benign.  No worries.

But if nineteen different people tell us that they’re going to visit Uncle Fergus in Toledo, then that’s not quite making sense and requires more investigation.  It’s a family reunion?  OK.  No worries.

Why does nobody going to the family reunion have the same last name?  Four are Korean, two are Irish and the rest are a mix of Middle Eastern, Latvian and Norwegian?  Hello? 

Why are half of them carrying Saudi passports and the other half are from Yemen, Qatar and Lebanon? 

Why is Uncle Fergus’ last name "Williams" from two of them, "Ben-Momser" from five more and the rest don’t know Uncle Fergus’ last name at all?  Something is not right here. 

Why are half these folks, allegedly going for a three-week vacation in Toledo with Uncle Fergus, only carrying one change of clothes and no gifts for Uncle Fergus?  Now things are truly not making sense and the alarm bells should start ringing. 

The current system is designed to be "airline friendly".  My system is designed to be secure.

The current system has not stopped theft, smuggling or illegal immigration on bogus credentials.  My system makes smuggling, theft and illegal immigration very difficult, as the by-catch of smugglers, child abductors, escapees, those on wanted lists, or fraudsters will more likely be caught before they can get away.  Heck, it could almost self-fund on captured illegal cash, drugs and reward money.

Lost, stolen or misdirected bags are one of those indicators of how well a system is working.  Guess what?  The current system is not working.

As reported by the FAA and the US Department of Transport Air Travel Consumer Report the system is worse than it was in December 1998.  (If you don’t believe me, go to and pull up the December 1998 report, then pull up the August 2006 report:  They’re .pdf’s)

I’ll summarize for you:  December 1998, airlines lost, misdirected or had stolen, an average of 4.29 bags per 1,000 passengers. 

August 2006, after all our ‘security’ measures, post 9/11, the average is 8.08 bags per 1,000 passengers.  Almost double.  The phrase "Screwed Beyond Redemption" comes to mind.

Next steps?  Paying more can happen quickly enough, but as the old saying goes, fish stink from the head first.  Firing a lot of senior people is needed.  They’re not serious about security, which is, putatively at least, their job. 

Re-train the existing people, after a comprehensive background check.  Double the number of inspectors and train them to ask questions all the time.  Ex-cops, ex-military or ex-customs officers are the kind of people you want to hire.  You want smart, curious, inventive and slightly distrusting individuals who actually get the concept of Security. 

Let the local mangers walk around looking at things for at least half the day, instead of managing breaks and coffee time.  Swap airports once in a while, letting supervisors, managers, or even line inspectors see a different set of challenges and figure out how to make them more secure. 

Tell the airlines that this is the deal and they can go do something unsanitary to themselves if they don’t like it.  TSA and CATSA are concerned with keeping terrorists out and the skies reasonably safe because the Federal Government owns the airspace.  We allow the airlines to use it, so it’s our rules or get out. 

Airlines are concerned with not serving food and flying the passengers as cheaply as possible.  If they don’t like it, they can open a bus company.

The public?  I suspect that the public might see the new security system as one that is intrusive and annoying, but for a good reason:  To keep the bad guys out.

Air Safety Bullshit Theatre

I got to fly this week, again sampling the finest cuisine and security of Canada’s Airports.  The cuisine I can address in only a few words:  Unavailable Crap on the planes, Readily Available crap in the terminals.  The security, well, that’s a different show.

It set me to thinking about airport security now that we’re five years out from 9/11.  What lessons have we learned and what can we do better? 

I think we’re all agreed that there is a need for airport screening before you get to the airplane.  I think we’re all agreed that people carrying on knives, box cutters, propane torches, guns, machetes, handcuffs or grenades is not in the best interests of increased security in the air.  I think we’re all agreed that we want to feel vaguely safe when we fly and that the likelihood of someone hijacking the aircraft is reduced as much as it can be.  How we get there is another story. 

Rentacops doing security screening is not the way to go.  That was the system in place before 9/11.  The FAA said that there must be security screening for anyone going airside and the airlines had to pay for it, so the airlines and the airports did it as cheaply as possible.  That meant rentacops being paid minimum wage to be on guard against all the potential badness that could converge on an airliner.  Post 9/11 the forming of CATSA and TSA was government-mandated and the training was extensive, at least on paper.  Salaries for the screeners?  Minimum wage.  We’ve substituted rentacops from private security firms with federally employed rentacops. 

Which explains a scene I saw in an airport that shall remain nameless.  Two screeners, both ostensibly looking at the X-ray output of the various bags, were arguing over who was going on break and when.  The image in front of them received exactly three seconds of their attention.  I timed them.  The only way they could have spotted something illegal would be if it had burst into flames in front of them, or had a bright orange flashing label that said "GUN". 

I don’t buy the ‘they’re trained professionals’ line.  To examine an x-ray of a bag takes more than three seconds.  Nobody is that good.  Nobody highly motivated is that good.  Most certainly nobody arguing about breaks and being paid minimum wage is that good.  To do a proper physical pat-down search takes 15 seconds on a handcuffed subject.  To X-ray inspect a bag should take at least that long, if not longer.

After I collected my stuff, I saw a man sitting near the supervisor’s stand, wearing a CATSA ID and looking like a supervisor.  I approached him and asked about the x-ray displays.  In many airports the actual output of the x-ray is shielded from the passengers.  At this particular airport, I could watch all the output screens at all the security lines.  I said so.  He told me that it wasn’t an invasion of privacy and it had been checked out by the lawyers. 

I explained that I could care less about someone seeing what was in my bag.  I was concerned that everyone can see exactly what level of detail the screeners see.  By knowing what the screeners can and cannot see, a potential bad guy can figure out where to hide and how to hide things in a carryon bag.  The supervisor pointed out that the second floor mezzanine surrounds the x-ray area and anyone can sit up there for hours watching the x-ray screens and the screeners to find the patterns and holes in the system. 

Since Buddy the Supervisor wasn’t getting it, I suggested either a small hood over the x-ray display to preclude shoulder surfing, or the 3M privacy filter that adheres right on the CRT itself.  Both would stop prying eyes, the hood being the cheapest and fastest.  He said he’d "bring it up."  Or "Fuck off and die."

I left the immediate area and hung around a little bit to watch the show.  Off to one side, just standing there, watching the screening process.  Nobody on any of the three lines spent more than four seconds looking at the x-ray images in the ten minutes I spent watching the watchers.  It wasn’t like I was subtle either.  I was never challenged or approached by either CATSA or anyone else asking what I was looking at and why.

I also watched the security swabbers too.  That swab of your laptop is supposed to pick up any explosive residue and the Kenner Easy-Bake Oven they slip the piece of cloth into is a gas detector and stripped down chromatograph.  It looks for the basic chemical signatures of explosives and alerts the screener.  The idea is explosive residues mean the human in front of them has been near something bad and should immediately be questioned more.

I don’t know the exact protocol, but using the same swab on eleven different laptops means the results from the swabbing of the surfaces are so cross-contaminated as to be meaningless.  It would be like your doctor using the same needle on eleven different patients in a row.  Not good.

Which brings up two interesting stories.  One from where a certain Christopher Soghoian had successfully posted a way to reproduce a NWA Boarding Pass on his blog, inserting whatever damn name you want to see.

In February of last year, Senator Chuck Schumer D-NY, did more or less the same thing at  Needless to say Sen. Chuck Schumer did not get his front door broken down by the FBI.  As for Christopher Soghoian?  He did get an unfriendly visit from the FBI.  Yesterday.

Based on what I’ve seen as a frequent flyer over the years and these two stories, the whole TSA and CATSA system is broken.  It is bullshit theatre to make us think we’re safe.  It has nothing to do with actually capturing potential bad guys trying to get on airplanes.  It has everything to do with posturing.

Since I don’t mind poking a red-hot needle in the eye of the authorities, I am obligated to tell them how to fix their little scam.  Which I will do in the next post, if only to be fair to the idiots who run our "security" infrastructure.

Hooked on Purell

It’s a dirty little secret the politicians share.  A shameful addiction that hundreds of celebrities share with politicians.  Even some software trainers have fallen under its’ spell.  The name of their hell is…

Purell.  There.  I’ve said it.  Hand Sanitizer.

The clear viscous liquid that addicts rub onto their hands has come under the light of publicity.  The whispered about backroom goo.  Known as ‘squirt’ or ‘glob’ and the addicts as ‘clean freaks’, ‘rubs’ or "Senator John McCain".  The squirt lifestyle has finally made it out of the green rooms and holding pens of pubic events in an article in the New York Times yesterday.

The list of hand sanitizer users is growing every day.  It is fearsome stuff, hooking users looking for a one time cleanup, into a degenerate life of furtively squirting the thick fluid onto their hands several times a day.  It is a sickness that some might briefly glimpse, but few understand, society shunning the glob users, choosing to overlook their fiendish search for another hit.

Perversely, those very people who see an addict squirting a dime sized dollop of Purell on their hands, then rubbing it into the skin, are the same people who minutes later, will be actually shaking hands with those piteous addicts.  It breaks your heart to see captains of industry and senior political figures surreptitiously rubbing their hands before meeting the pubic, knowing they are rubbing an addictive little drop of Purell into their pores.  Perhaps it is the rush of sneaking a rub in public.  Or knowing that your hands are protected, at least for a few moments, from rhinovirus, adenovirus and the hundreds of viruses that cause gastroenteritis.

The terrible addiction has spread throughout the ranks of politicians at every level.  From President JoJo The Idiot Boy, to your local School Trustee, you’ll see little bottles of Purell being passed back and forth before meeting the public.  At the highest levels, including Senator Barak Obama, Al Gore, and John McCain, all confessed users of squirt, there are those who won’t cross the line.  One stalwart is New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.  In the NYTimes article he’s quoted as saying “I just won’t use the sanitizer,” he said. “I’ve been offered it, but I’ve turned it down."  Now that’s a man with character!

I know that the pervasive use of Purell is going to influence your vote in a few days.  Be it for local government in Ontario, or in the mid-terms in the US, make sure you ask the direct question of any candidate: 

"Do you now, or have you ever, used Purell Hand Sanitizer?" 

Then vote accordingly.  You know what to do.

Peter MacKay's Dog Remark

I’ll try to add in the backstory for our American readers at the end, if only so they can look at their Congress and shake their heads with the same shame as Canadians shake their heads at the dimbulbs who populate our House of Commons.

The Foreign Affairs Minister, Peter MacKay is in the shit for an alleged comment he made in the House last week.  Allegedly, MacKay said that his former girlfriend, Belinda Stronach, a sitting opposition member, was a dog and the Opposition already had her. 

Hansard, the official transcript of the House, does not show his comment, but several members say they heard MacKay make the comment in the House.  Needless to say, members of the House are blowing head valves at a record pace. 

The House has always been a place of decorum.  Theoretically, the members speak to each other by their ridings or their roles  You don’t call a Member of Parliament by their name.  As an example, saying "Hey Baird, you suck!" is unparliamentary.  However, saying "The Honourable Member for Ottawa-West Nepean sucks!" is somewhat permissible. 

It is considered bad form to call Cabinet members or the Prime Minister by their riding.  Therefore it is somewhat permissible to say "The Right Honourable Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs both aspirate human fecal matter through a straw!"

Despite those and several hundred other rules of decorum and behavior, Hansard does not always represent exactly what was said in the House.  The galleys ("Blues") of Hansard are sent to each Member of Parliament the next day for the correction of errors and omissions.  Each MP is entitled to ‘correct’ what was reported, within certain fuzzy limits. 

Comments not entered into Hansard are considered to not have happened.  Technically, only the words uttered by the person speaking when so recognized by the Speaker of the House are for Hansard.  Any comments overheard before, after, or during that are not recognized by the Speaker, do not exist and do not get into Hansard. 

There is one exception.  For example, if a member were to stand in his place and tell a joke about two nuns walking into a whorehouse, the resulting laughter would be reported in Hansard as: "Some Hon. Members: Oh, ho, ho, ho!"  This is as close as Hansard ever gets to recording the gales of laughter, shouts of derision and general heckling that goes on in that joint.

Incidentally, anything said within the House is not considered actionable in a court of law.  Therefore a Member can call another member a "sleeveen", as John Crosbie did.  Sleeveen is Newfoundland slang for a rascal or sneaky person.  Had Crosbie done this outside the House, he could have been sued for libel.  Calling another member a "liar" means you must immediately withdraw your words and apologize to the House and the member for affronting the privilege of the House.

To say that the House of Commons is out of control is an understatement.  You can watch CPAC, the cable Parliamentary Channel to get a small taste of what the House is like.  But if you can, go and sit in the Public Gallery during Question Period.  Seats are free, but you do have to show ID and go through a security checkpoint, like in an airport.  Settle in for an hour of shouts, curses, interruptions, invective, heckling and general hysteria.  It is worse than trying to get a word in edgewise in a bar argument at closing time.  

The House of Commons at Question Period is embarrassing in its boorishness and lack of any vestige of decorum, dignity or solemn representation of the will of the people of Canada.  None of it is reported in Hansard.  Very little of it shows up on the cable Parliamentary channel.

The backstory on MacKay and Stronach is merely salacious.  Stronach was a Conservative MP who was dating a Conservative MP, Peter MacKay.  Then one day, Stronach decided to cross the floor and become a Liberal Cabinet Minister under Paul Martin’s Ship of Fools.  Needless to say, the romance went into the dumper when MacKay found out:  There was no way in hell he’d date a Liberal.  There was also no way in hell Stronach could be in a Liberal cabinet and be dating a Conservative.  The rumour press has posited that MacKay was ‘devastated’ by Stronach’s turncoat political power grab. 

(Parenthetically, if Belinda Stronach had been a man and dumped a girlfriend for a position of power in the Cabinet, this discussion would not be happening.  It would be accepted as the normal course of the affairs of Men.  This, of course, is bullshit sexism and a double-standard of reporting because Stronach doesn’t have a dick.)

Technically, Peter MacKay said nothing, at least according to the Official Hansard of the Proceedings of the 39th Parliament, First Session.  Therefore, nothing happened.  If Peter MacKay did actually say what he is alleged to say, then he’s a petulant child and a poor loser who deserves every little molecule of shitrain that is falling on him.

American Translation:  A Republican Congressperson called a former girlfriend who is now a sitting Democrat Congressperson, a dog just before standing to talk to some bill in Congress.  People overheard it, but it was not in the Congressional Record. 

The rest of the reporting media and a bunch of other Congresspersons are all a-twitter about it.  There has been some reporting that the Republicans are actually proud of the alleged remark.  It proved that the member was heterosexual and was bad-mouthing someone whom he used to romp with, not gathering up piles of unmarked cash from Jack Abramoff.

Kim Jong-Il says he's Sorry

This one in from Associated Press:

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il expressed regret about his country’s nuclear test to a Chinese delegation and said Pyongyang would return to international nuclear talks if Washington backs off a campaign to financially isolate the country, a South Korean newspaper reported Friday.

"If the U.S. makes a concession to some degree, we will also make a concession to some degree, whether it be bilateral talks or six-party talks," Kim was quoted as telling a Chinese envoy, the mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo reported, citing a diplomatic source in China.

Oh?  He’s sorry he let off a low-yield nuke?  Or is Kim Jong-Il sorry that most of the population in his country are starving to death?  Or is he sorry that he listened to Pakistan’s A.O Khan and bought the blueprints for his bomb off the Internet for $20 plus next-day shipping? 

Or is Kim Jong-Il sorry that his population is leaving in record numbers according to Radio Free Asia and the European Union.  Factoid point (  Record numbers of North Koreans are applying for asylum in Germany, Belgium, the UK, Holland, Thailand, Viet Nam, Cambodia and China:  North Koreans are voting with their feet before they starve. 

Perhaps Dear Leader is sorry for the pisspoor choreography that gets performed at the mass demonstrations in Pyongyang.  Or those ghastly uniform hats that make his soldiers look like they’ve got a khaki Frisbee glued to their heads.  The man has no style.  Even Idi Amin had a sense of design and line.

If Condi Rice has a lick of sense, then the ‘concessions’ she’ll give Dear Leader should include "Not letting you starve to death this winter."  The other concession should be providing a DVD copy of "Three’s Company, Season 1 and 2" that he so desperately wants.  Stick and Carrot.

If Kim Jong-Il has a lick of sense, he’ll take the DVD and promise to Never, Ever, do the nuclear thing again.

And change the uniform, dude.  You look like a teddybear crossed with a dork, dressed in Dr. Denton sleepers.

The Golden Rule

I went looking for the various versions of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" that I quoted in a previous post.  Here are a bunch of them, some from

"Love your neighbor as yourself." – Torah, Leviticus 19:18

"What you do not wish upon yourself, extend not to others." – Analects of Confucius, 15, 3

"Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto other that you would not have them do unto you." – Analects, 15, 23

"What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man." – Hillel

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." – Luke 6:31; Luke 10:27

"Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you." – Muhammad in The Farewell Sermon

"No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself." – Sunnah

"What is harmful to you, do not to your fellow men.  That is the entire Law, all the rest is commentary" – Talmud, Shabbat, 31a

"This is the turn of duty, do naught unto others which could cause you pain if done to you." – Mahabharata, 5, 15:17

"One should not behave towards others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself. This is the essence of morality. All other activities are due to selfish desire." – Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva, 113.8

"Regard your neighbour’s gain as your own gain and your neighbour’s loss as your own loss." – T’ai Shang Kan Yin P’ien

"As you see yourself, see others as well; only then will you become a partner in heaven." Bhagat Kabir GGS 480

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 7:12

“The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” – Galatians 5:14

Do not say that if people do good to us, we will do good to them, and if people oppress us, we will oppress them. Instead determine that if people do good to you, you will do good to them; and if they oppress you, you will not oppress them. " – "The Sayings of Muhammad" with a foreword by Mahatma Gandhi“

Blessed is he who prefers his brother before himself” Baha’u’llah Tablets of Baha’u’llah 6.71

"Choose thou for thy neighbour that which thou choosest for thyself" Baha’u’llah Tablets of Baha’u’llah 6.64

“Wish not for others what you wish not for yourselves” Baha’u’llah Aqdas 148.73

"This is an ordinance: Act for the man who acts, to cause him to act. This is thanking him for what he does." – The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant In line B1 142 page 64 of The Tale of Sinuhe and Other Ancient Egyptian Poems, tr. R.B. Parkinson OUP.

"That nature only is good when it shall not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self." – Dadistan-i-Dinik 94:5

"Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others." – Shayast-na-Shayast 13:29

"Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." – Udana-Varga 5:18

"The Sage…makes the self of the people his self." Tao Te Ching Ch 49, tr. Ch’u Ta-Kao

"Therefore, neither does he cause violence to others nor does he make others do so." – Acarangasutra 5.101-2, Jainism.

"It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly (agreeing ‘neither to harm nor be harmed’). And it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life." – Epicurus

"What you hate, do not do to anyone." – The Book of Tobit 4:15

"What you feel painful to yourself, do not do to others." – Tiruvalluvar, Tirukkural 316

"What you would avoid suffering yourself, seek not to impose on others." – Epictetus

"Act as if the maxim of thy action were to become by thy will a universal law of nature." – Kant’s categorical imperative

"Identity is the identity of identity and non-identity." – Hegel’s reflexive, antisymmetric identity, X = not(X), at foundation of all moral systems

I think I got most of them.

…Living in the United States

We’re into the third piece here, trying to figure out the real questions raised by "Disaffected people living in the United States".  The implication being the disaffected are likely candidates to commit acts as home-grown terrorists, the further implication being they’re Al Qaeda cement-heads all cranked  up and ready to go.

All countries have borders.  Borders often mean controls.  There is a person in authority standing on the line who is supposed to give the person trying to get in, a lookover, to see if they’re obviously bad.  To apply to get into the US, if you’re not from Canada, you have to have a visa of some sort.  Depending on what country you are applying from, getting an entry visa is easy or nearly impossible. 

Theoretically, someone reads what you put on your visa application and checks the rules.  If you are coming in to the US to be a tourist, you’re fine.  Go see the Grand Canyon, Branson, Missouri,  Christmas Town near Frankenmuth, Michigan, The Mystery Spot in New Hampshire and that place on the Florida-Georgia border that says "Guns – Fireworks –  Liquor" on the big sign.  After your trip, get out and go back to Elbonia. 

If you’re a student and have an acceptance letter, you can come in to do your studies.  If the acceptance letter is from Madame Esmerelda’s School of Cosmetology, that’s fine.  So is Harvard, Yale or Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School in Gainesville Florida:  You’re a student.  Study, finish your course and go back to Elbonia.

Before the Department of Homeland Paranoia, the visas were handled by the State Department and the Department of Immigration and Naturalization Services, the INS.  State had controls over who got visas based on what country the applicant was from and what they wanted to do in the US.  INS handled those who wanted to stay permanently, to become citizens.

The follow-up after granting a visa was negligible to none. This has not changed under Chertoff’s Department of Homeland Paranoia:  They’re more concerned with X-raying Aunt Hazel’s walker at the airport.  Or confiscating the mouthwash in your carry-on.

Here’s the ugly part. 

The disaffected are already in the United States.  Disaffected, cut out of the American Dream, cranked up on religious intolerance and just waiting for the word from wherever to strike a blow against the Great Satan.  

Nobody from Homeland Paranoia, INS or State have ever been, or will ever be, called to account for the whereabouts of every visitor under any kind of visa to the US.  They don’t know where they are.  They have no way of finding them.  Those disaffected folks have gone to the Undisclosed Location:  America.

So what can we do about it?  Clamping down in the Internet is intellectually bogus.  If you want to stop the disaffected from hearing from their masters, you must turn off radio, TV, newspapers, telephones, mail, couriers and any other type of communication, including skywriting, smoke signals and the Trans-Atlantic String and Dixie cup system we put in last year. 

There is another possible fix.  I’m not positive it will work.  I do know a little bit about how humans behave, so I have a feeling it might work.  Downside?  It will take a long time, close to an entire generation, to see the results.  Also, it will cost some serious money.

Here’s what I think might work:  Remember the four commonalities that all humans share?  Shelter, Food, Security, Better life for the kids?  If a human gets all of those things, there is a reasonable possibility that they will be vaguely happy where they live.  They might even become proud of where they live.  This tends to shut down self-destructive disaffection and the willingness to become a terrorist.

To make it happen, the US is going to have to do a couple of things. 

Pay a fair minimum wage.  Humans can’t live in the US on $5.15 an hour.  Hungry, homeless humans become disaffected quickly and will listen to anybody promising something better.  There is no valid reason that anyone in the US should ever go to bed hungry or not have a roof over their head.  Ignore the business people who say that a fair wage will hurt business.  A fair wage means that a business won`t make 114% profit, they`ll have to suffer through with only 99% profit.  As a broad rule of thumb, a worker should be able to afford to buy some of the things he or she makes. 

Have cradle-to-grave universal health care that doesn’t cost the US citizen a dime.  There is no reason any citizen should have to live in the fear that they will have to declare bankruptcy and lose their home because they slipped on the sidewalk and broke a leg.  It doesn’t have to be a gold-plated system, just a comprehensive and fair one.  Fund it from the tax system. 

Shoot 90% of the lawyers.  Put the remaining 9% in an open pit mine and invite the general public to come by and throw rocks at them.  Keep 1% alive for the very few cases that actually need a legal opinion.  Bringing back the stocks in the town square might also work, if you haven’t got a spare open pit mine.

Shitcan about 99% of the tax code.  It is so full of loopholes and dodges that only the wealthy (and their lawyers) can use to wriggle around the confusing and contradictory laws.  The only people who actually pay income taxes are the same poor people who can’t afford lawyers. 

A gutting of the tax code also means that corporations will have to pay taxes, as all the shelters, incentives, finagles and paper accounting shenanigans are going to go away.  A 10% corporate tax is fair, considering big corporations will save at least that much by firing their tax accountants and feeding their tax lawyers into a shredder.

Simplify the laws.  The US Constitution is a good basis for most laws.  Try reading it sometime. 

Election term limits for everything from County Dog Catcher to President.  Two four-year terms are enough.  Politics is not a career path:  It is Public Service for the common good.  Plus, with term limits, the politicians can’t do too much damage, or skim off too much graft.

Encourage the media to be distrustful of anything that comes out of a government spokesperson`s mouth.  A grumpy, suspicious media means an informed citizenry and keeps business and government honest. 

Separate the Church and the State.  The government is a managerial structure for fairly and efficiently funding things for the common good of all citizens.  A Church is a place to feed the soul and to share with like-minded celebrants.  

Repeat after me:  The State Has No Place In The Bedrooms Of The Nation.  As long as the participants are of the age of majority and can actively consent, then the State has no say.  The Church can make it a part of their theology.  Sexual morals are a Church thing.  They know how to do guilt and shame.

Bring the military home.  The US should not offer to fix other countries until they fix their own country.  Use the military to protect your borders if you want.  When the US is fixed, then you can look outside your borders.  If you want to use the military to help in natural disasters overseas, that would be nice, but not expected by the rest of the world.

Treat every citizen with respect, tolerance and a bit of benign neglect.  Americans, even new Americans, are smart people.  They`ll find a way to make a prosperous life if you get out of their way and let them get on with it.  Take away the confusion, fear, manipulation and hatred by being nice to each other.  Perhaps learning about those brown or red or yellow or beige or blue or orange people down the street might help. 

There.  We can unwire the disaffected in the US by making it possible for all the citizens to get a piece of the American Dream.  Not a guarantee, but a reasonable possibility of having a roof over their head, a full belly, a bit of security and a better life for the kids. 

Nobody wants to turn that down.

Disaffected but Why?

As a reminder, here’s the first line of the quote with the money shot underlined: 

"BOSTON, Oct. 16 — Disaffected people living in the United States may develop radical ideologies and potentially violent skills over the Internet and that could present the next major U.S. security threat, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Monday"

To get to the real questions we have to do some deconstruction and define some terms.  We’re going to chop this quote down to the real point.  This is not going to be a easy read, but here goes.  I know you’re up to it.

What I’d like to do is take out the buffoonery regarding the Internet.  If there was no Internet, then Al Qaeda would be using faxes, telephones, surface mail, or human couriers. 

Blaming the Internet is as logically valid as blaming the telegraph for Pearl Harbor.  ("Those sneaky Japs perverting Samuel Morse’s noble invention to attack the US by sending telegrams, in code, to Tokyo telling the Navy when the ships were in Pearl.  The bastards!  Ban the Telegraph!)  The Internet is a fast communications tool and nothing more.  Chertoff is engaging in faulty logic and some scare mongering at the behest of the Terror Trust who don’t want to answer the real questions.

Our sentence now becomes "Disaffected people living in the United States may develop radical ideologies and potentially violent skills." 

Next on the chopping block is "may develop radical ideologies and potentially violent skills"  Apply enough effort with creative storytelling using ‘holy’ documents as the basis, you could convince a cloister of Grey Nuns to become killers. 

With enough quotes out of context and a bit of charisma we get the Fighting Nuns of the 174th Regiment storming Juno beach under a hail of machine gun fire in 1944.  Or Jonestown.  Which do you prefer?  I prefer the image of Sister Mary Margaret leaping through barbed wire with a Sten gun blazing away, as it is wholly imaginary. 

Jonestown was too real a proof that anyone can develop radical ideologies and potentially violent skills.  Radical ideologies and violent skills are two bullshit terms, especially married with ‘may’.  Weasel words: Out they come.

We’re left with "Disaffected people living in the US." the implication being they will become terrorists.

Let’s ask the tough questions, more or less in order, and I’ll try to explain my take on it as we go.

First question:  Why are these people disaffected?  More correctly, why are these people disaffected enough to want to blow themselves up in a terrorist act? 

It isn’t religion, broadly speaking, as all religions preach peaceful coexistence with others.  For the religious scholars out there, don’t bother sending me quotes from this or that document that "proves" the opposite.  I can find enough obscure quotes on my own; we’re still talking broadly, OK? 

All the major brands and most of the minor brands have something along the lines of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  I’m using the Christian version, as I know it best.

Do unto others is a core teaching of whatever brand of God/Supreme Being/Deity/Galactic Mothership you happen to believe in.  Even atheists think that "Do unto others" is a good rule to operate your life by, leaving out the whole theology thing.

Religious extremism?  I don’t like to use the word "extremism" as it poo-poohs someone else’s deeply held beliefs.  What is ‘extreme’ to me, is panty-waist to someone else.  How about religious intolerance?  If the disaffected are not buying into a basic theological tolerance for everyone, then they’re being intolerant.

Religious intolerance is probably a good area to investigate.  Some cement-heads think the Bible says it is a good thing to plant pipe bombs full of nails in Family Planning clinics, or that God will answer your prayers for a lottery win.  The Quakers were so tight-assed they thought hard-core Presbyterians were sensation-crazed libertines. Early Buddhists got up to some weird stuff involving sealing devotees in large jars to see if their depth and sincerity of belief would protect them from the thirst and hunger of the mere human body.  It didn’t.

Grant me that every religion has their slightly odd element, ok?

We come back to our original question.  What did we (meaning the US in this instance, but Western folks in general) do to piss other folks off enough to take up self-destructive terrorism?  It isn’t a lifestyle choice like being a vegan or voting Green, we’re talking serious commitment to blow yourself up. 

Did these disaffected people try to get a piece of the American Dream at some time?  The US might have a number of serious problems, but it is fairly safe, without death squads roaming the countryside.  With some hard work (and a bit of luck) you might create a better life in the US than you had in Elbonia.  You at least have a chance, which you probably didn’t have back in Elbonia..

So did these disaffected take a run at the American Dream and not make it?  Now they’re bitter and twisted and figure revenge is as good an emotion as any?  Is that what happened? 

There is precedence for revenge.  Timmy McVeigh was a straight-up revenge act.  The Crusades were a revenge act gone bad over a couple of hundred years.  The Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials and even WW II were acts of revenge.  Humans can do revenge easily. 

Combine revenge with some religious intolerance plus a bit of theological gymnastics and you can easily see how someone can become disaffected enough to blow themselves to bits, taking as many other people as possible. 

I’m not saying that the American Dream is the only way:  It is just one way to measure a life.  I’ve done enough traveling around the world and talked with enough regular people to come to a conclusion regarding humans.  Here’s my take on the Big Secret:

Humans want:  A roof over their heads.  A full belly.  A bit of personal security.  A better life for their kids than they had. 

As best I can tell, these are the commonalities all humans share.  Humans who can get, or get near enough, to all four commonalities are reasonably calm and behave in non-destructive ways.  If the theology they choose to follow has something equivalent to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" written in big letters, then the whole group of humans tends to get along.

Following the logic, the disaffected have lost hope of getting any of the four commonalities of all humans.  Add some revenge anger, a couple of rounds of theological Twister and you get a potential terrorist.  It makes sense.

In the next post we’ll nail down the second part of the quote.

Michael Chertoff's Internet Dementia

This on MSNBC today, from Reuters:

BOSTON, Oct. 16 — Disaffected people living in the United States may develop radical ideologies and potentially violent skills over the Internet and that could present the next major U.S. security threat, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Monday. ”We now have a capability of someone to radicalize themselves over the Internet,” Chertoff said on the sidelines of a meeting of International Association of the Chiefs of Police.
       ”They can train themselves over the Internet. They never have to necessarily go to the training camp or speak with anybody else and that diffusion of a combination of hatred and technical skills in things like bomb-making is a dangerous combination,” Chertoff said. ”Those are the kind of terrorists that we may not be able to detect with spies and satellites.”
       Chertoff pointed to the July 7, 2005 attacks on London’s transit system, which killed 56 people, as an example a home-grown threat.
       To help gather intelligence on possible home-grown attackers, Chertoff said Homeland Security would deploy 20 field agents this fiscal year into ”intelligence fusion centers,” where they would work with local police agencies.
       By the end of the next fiscal year, he said the department aims to up that to 35 staffers.

I’m going to go out on a limb, just for giggles.  First point, Chertoff doesn’t scratch his ass without clearing it with the White House, so you can assume this comes from the Terror Trust of Rove, Rumsfeld, Cheney and JoJo the Idiot Boy.

In their worldview the Internet is full of encrypted file swapping Evildoers of the Axis of Evil, plans for an atomic bomb on every server, homosexual talk with Congressional Pages everywhere and radicalized terror groups just waiting for the word from a mysterious source to open war on the Homeland.  To help stem the tide, Chertoff is going to relocate 20 agents to local police forces.  Presumably these 20 (soon to be 35) agents will have an Internet connection on their desk.  Might even be a broadband connection, rather than dial-up. 

I’m not quite following what this score of agents are supposed to do to make the Homeland safer?  Are they supposed to read every Arabic language site for hints of radicalism?  Are they supposed to troll for disaffected youth?  (Mark Foley tried trolling for disaffected youth and see what it got him?)  Are these agents supposed to break up terrorist rings by breaking into a chat session and typing "Halt! In the name of the Department of Homeland Paranoia!" in all caps, with an angry Smiley emoticon?

If it is monitoring the Internet the Terror Trust wants, they already have the capacity.  The Patriot Act lets the US government tap into anything, without a warrant, on suspicion of terrorist activities.  I suspect that the Department of JustUs and Homeland Paranoia have discovered that they are being swamped by data and can’t make sense of the firehose gushing of ‘suspect’ communications.  There’s the downside of no controls on surveillance:  You’re afraid you’re going to miss something, so you take everything.  Then you can’t sort through it.

The real problem is in the first line of the story.  "Disaffected people living in the United States…"

I’m going to try to answer those problems in the next post.  Notice the word ‘try’.  I don’t have all the answers and neither does anyone else.