Monthly Archives: November 2010

The TSA Feel-Me-Up Game Follow-up


Now that the media is distracted by the retail hand puppet that is Black Friday, we can look back at the TSA Feel-Me-Up Game and see how we did.  It flopped.  However, through an amazing coincidence, Boston Logan only had lines open to the usual metal detectors, instead of the the ‘nude’ scanners. 

Despite some furious backpedaling by the TSA, those who did go through the effort to opt out got appropriately felt-up.  One female passenger got an object lesson in feminine hygiene products from the TSA when she was confronted with a pat-down.  Other groups, like pilots are also bent about the system.  This link is a good article from the NYT.

At the same time, it came to light that a TSA mook at Atlanta has been accused of abducting and sexually assaulting a woman.  He had previous convictions for harassment and stalking, which didn’t disqualify him from becoming a TSA screener.

We’re also not going to mention the gloves the screeners use.  Unlike any other barrier protection device in medical use, the TSA fondlers only change gloves when they want to, not when you want them to.

That’s OK, because at least one media outlet has picked up on what makes sense regarding screening and it’s CNN.  We’ve banged this drum before on roaddave as far back as October 2006. 

The answer is you have to use people to solve a people problem.  At the core, terrorism is a people problem, in that there are people who want to cause mayhem for whatever reason, using aircraft as their stage or weapon.  The Israeli airline El Al does this as a matter of course.  It is intrusive and takes trained, well-paid, intelligent agents with a lick of common-sense, but it works. 

Isn’t that what we really want?  Working, sensible, as-secure-as-possible air travel? 

 

 

 

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The TSA Feel-Me-Up Game


With the US Thanksgiving air travel festival getting ready to start, we thought it would be important to recognize the fun you can actually have going through the security check. 

Since mid-September more or less, the TSA in the US has been conducting very intrusive pat-down inspections of passengers who opt-out of the full-body scanner searches.  The back-scatter X-Ray scanners are the ones that give some poor TSA mook a look through your clothing to see if you prune or trim your Secret Garden, ostensibly to see if you’re packing another Underwear Bomb. 

There are serious concerns that the level of X-Rays you are exposed to is higher than one would consider safe.  Radiation poisoning aside, the second issue is what happens with the nude image of your body that the back-scatter machines provide.  The TSA says the machine can’t save the images and the image is discarded after you leave the machine.  Of course, we believe the TSA, in every way.

Where the fun starts is if you opt-out.  The TSA will perform an intrusive, full-body, hand search.  So far, it seems that when you opt-out, the TSA officers announce it loudly in the security area and the supervisors run over to make sure you are clearly opting out.  They give you a warning that you are going to be hand-searched thoroughly, including your genitals, by a TSA officer. 

You are offered a private room to be searched in and you will be searched by an officer of the same gender as you are.  Those who have opted-out have described the hand search as being sexually assaulted, felt-up and generally being molested by a government official.

Leaving aside the Air Safety Bullshit Theatre of the TSA (and CATSA here in Canada) as well as various violations of a few parts of the US Constitution with those pesky items regarding safety and security of the person and possessions, there is nothing in the rules that says you have to fly:  You can always refuse to travel on the aircraft by refusing to submit to the x-ray and the hand inspection.

Assuming you have to fly to get home and want to fly, your options are limited, at least at first glance.  Then we thought about it for a moment.

1:  You have the right to not expose yourself to unnecessary radiation.  Tell the inspector you have not seen independent third-party, verifiable inspection of the dosage of the X-Ray machine operation for today.  Not last week, or when the machine was built, but today’s calibration.  A simple:  “Do you have today’s calibration test data available and may I see it please?” will suffice.  If they say no and you can’t, then insist, loudly and clearly, that you are opting out.  This sets off the pandemonium. 

2:  You will be cautioned, probably by some supervisor that you must take the X-ray inspection or you will be denied boarding.  This is a lie.  You are perfectly within your rights to opt out of the X-Ray and insist on a hand-inspection, but the supervisor will try to browbeat you into the machine.  Stand firm, as you have not been provided with the calibration data and do not wish to risk your future health by being irradiated by an unchecked and potentially miscalibrated machine that could roast your innards like the Thanksgiving turkey.

3:  Insist that you want the hand inspection and are formally opting-out of the full-body scan.  And that you want it done, right here, right now, in full view of the rest of the passengers trying to push their way through.  The TSA knows that a hand inspection takes close to a minute and a half.  The full-body scan takes less than 30 seconds.  You are slowing down the ‘processing’, causing the TSA embarrassment which they so richly deserve.  Decline the private room.  Your objective is to make the rules work for you, to shame the TSA and make them squirm with as much public humiliation and discomfort as you can provide, while working fully within the few laws and rights you are allowed.

4:  You will be asked to empty your pockets on a table.  Comply, absolutely, empty your pockets of change, bills, receipts, wallet, everything.  You don’t have a choice here and only full compliance will do. 

5:  There is no law that we’re aware of that says you cannot fly with a soft plastic squeaky toy in your underwear.  That’s right dear traveller:  You are not prohibited from having a squeaky toy in your underwear, be it briefs, panties, brassiere or all of the above, depending on your personal lifestyle choices.  Pet stores provide myriad choices in colourful, safe, soft plastic or fabric coated pet-friendly toys in various sizes, many with annoying squeakers.  If you own a dog or a cat, we’re fairly certain you know the kind we mean. 

Odds are the airport has infant or pet toys for sale in the various stores on the public side, before security screening. Plunk down the five dollars for a five-inch soft plastic dog bone that says “Pittsburgh”.  If is has a squeaker inside, so much the better.  You are contributing to the economic recovery of your country!  Knowing that the hand inspection will include a groping of your groin or breasts until “we determine there is resistance” to quote the TSA manual, we recommend adjourning to the washroom to install the squeaky toy somewhere appropriate.  Yes, your clothing will look a little odd for a few minutes; so what?  There is a caveat however:  Do not choose anything that could be described as a toy weapon.   Make sure your choice is completely benign, like a toy frog, panda bear, rubber duckie, or mouse. 

6:  As best as we can determine, there is no law that says you cannot enjoy the hand inspection and vociferously express your enjoyment.  Think bad porno soundtrack, or the classic moment from “When Harry Met Sally”.  This is your government and tax dollars at work.  If you’re going to be molested by a federal law, you might as well enjoy it.  Moan, with a low, sexy, Barry White growl of pleasure when the inspector gets near your privates.  Perhaps a soft “Ooh baby…” will do.  There is no law that says you can’t get your groove on from a stranger, even one with a polyester uniform and blue nitrile gloves.  Remember, actors fake sexual response all the time, so channel your inner thespian.

The supervisor will probably caution you to shut up, but you can’t control it, as you have a medical condition.  You have a hair-trigger sexual response to touching and there’s nothing you can do about it.  It isn’t illegal, doesn’t pose a risk to the flight and your comments are not directed at the TSA inspector personally.

7:  When, not if, the inspector finds the squeaky toy they will demand to know exactly what it is.  Your response:  “It is a toy for my pet.  I am entitled to give the toy a scent and this is the most appropriate place to scent the object.  Would you like me to take it out?”  At this point, the TSA inspector will likely lose it, which is your objective all long.  You want them to overreact, while molesting you in a public place, in front of several hundred other passengers and witnesses.  Ask for permission to reach into your crotch to remove the object, you don’t want that TSA meat puppet to pull their weapon either. 

Slowly reach down and pull out that Pittsburgh squeaky toy, ensuring you squeak it a few times on the way out, then hand it over to the inspector.  Say nothing.  Let the inspector examine it.  Let the inspector think about exactly what you are doing.  You are presenting them with a pet toy that has been in your crotch for God knows how long.  You have also moaned or squirmed in the most inappropriate way, while being hand inspected. 

You have done absolutely nothing illegal, threatening, disruptive or endangering to flight security or safety.  You know it and the TSA knows it.  And you know there’s not one damn thing they can do about it.

Now there is an argument that you are embarrassing the TSA inspector and the supervisor.  Yes, you are.  Why would you do that? 

The simple answer is TSA doesn’t give damn about you, from the highest level to the front line inspector.  There are so many reports of line inspectors, supervisors and site managers working over obvious innocent passengers for the sheer shits and giggles of being powerful guardians of the Security of the Air.  The rot starts at the top and goes all the way to the front line. 

Sure, there probably are TSA folks who want to do a good job, properly and well, with due respect to the cross purposes of security and passenger safety, but they are thwarted by the system that does not reward common sense.

 

Movember Update III


Get squeamish gentlemen, we’re talking prostate.  Yep.  That bit-bigger-than-a-walnut sized gland below your bladder and North-North-West of your asshole. 

It’s a fascinating little object and here’s what it does.  Your prostate secretes a slightly alkaline fluid that is about 25 to 30 percent of your semen.  Not the sperm themselves, that’s a nut job, pun intended, but the seminal vesicles pass up from the nuts to the prostate and mix together to pass down your penis when you pop your cookies from watching “The Golden Girls” reruns.  That Rue McClanahan…what a Minx!  Oh crap, that was out loud wasn’t it?

The reason the prostatic fluid is slightly alkaline is to give your sperm a fighting chance in the Great Swim of Life.  The vagina is acidic, so a bit of alkali lets the lads live longer, eventually leading to fertilization, “was it good for you?” yadda, yadda, yadda, right up to “Yes Dad, it’s a really nice Home and we’ll come to visit you every weekend.  We promise.”

The Creator did great, nay, fabulous work when He did Women, but Jeeze Louise, Male Parts were not His best work:  The design is merely functional, like sex organs designed by Ikea.  It’s part of a system, but you can’t make sense of the instructions and the illustrations are cartoon sketches.  Women however, ahh, now that’s superlative work.  The intake is a bit close to the exhaust, but it’s a great design.

There are enough maladies that can befall the prostate that entire medical careers have been built on them.  It’s a very poor design, almost as bad as the knee, but at least the knee will stop working or swell up if you injure it.  The prostate just sits there like a walnut, asking itself “Am I Coming or am I Going?”

There are two ways to check the prostate and you need both.  The first is what is called a Prostate Specific Antigen test, which is a blood test, taken from blood from your arm.  The lab rats look for an increased level of Prostate antigen, a chemical that indicates a fine, healthy, happy, prostate or an unhappy prostate depending on the change between tests. 

Around the age of 40 to 45, men should have a PSA test yearly.  Some docs say 50, other say 40, but what you want to do is start early enough that you know what your PSA level is over a few years.  Mine’s normal, around 0.01 which indicates no issues with increased antigen production, which would indicate something wrong if the number changes. The PSA test is an early warning, nothing more.

Up until last year, you had to pay separately for a PSA when you had your usual blood work done.  It was $15 most years.  I consider it money well spent.  Now most health care covers it, so ask for it.  If the numbers change, see a doctor right away.  A change in the PSA is an early warning that something is not right.  It hurts as much as having your blood taken hurts.  Instead of four vials, they’ll take five.  No biggie.

There are issues with the PSA test, both false positives and false negatives.  There are also issues with, in the female department, PAP tests, again false positives and false negatives.  In either case, having a baseline is part of early detection.  It isn’t a diagnosis, it just flags something for more investigation. 

The other way to check the prostate is a digital exam.  That’s right digit, as in finger, not zeros and ones digital.  Your doctor will insert a gloved and well-lubricated finger in your asshole and palpate your prostate with a finger to check for inflammation, something swollen or out of whack. 

The sensation of having the prostate digitally examined is no worse than taking a five-pound dump after a night of bad Mexican food.  It’s no fun, but it’s over soon enough and feels much better when finished.  What the doc is looking for is abnormal size, or malformation of the prostate itself.  If you have a swollen prostate, you will scream like a little girl when the doc palpates it.  That doesn’t mean you have cancer, it only means something is wrong.  You can get a swollen prostate from too much self-pleasuring, or, in some men, bike riding.  Prostatic inflammation from things like that goes away after a couple of days of rest.    

A good, caring, doc will have you lie on one side and have you bring one knee up to your chest for a digital exam.  An army-trained doctor will have you bend over the examining table and say “Hang on to your hat!”  I’ve had both and the knee up is much better.

Yes, you might spring a Hollywood half-loaf totally without intention.  Pressure on the prostate can trigger a drop or two of urine, or a mild, momentary erection, no worse than a morning piss-hard and no more useful either.  The prostate is covered with the very same pelvic floor muscles that contract when you have an orgasm and cause you to ejaculate by giving the prostate a good hard squeeze.  It’s perfectly normal as the systems are all interrelated.  Or, absolutely nothing will happen:  It varies from human to human.

Odds are 50-50 you’ll fart too.  I asked and my doc and she said she’s been farted at so many times doing prostate exams that it’s now beyond disgusting and merely funny.  No, it is not appropriate to load up on jalapeno nachos, cabbage soup, beer and beans the night before your prostate exam.

In either case, a digital prostate exam does not make you suddenly want to sing show tunes, or find the beauty in old Judy Garland movies.  Sorry guys, it doesn’t.   

It’s not a comfortable sensation for many men, but it is insanely important to have done.  The prostate doesn’t give many clues that it is unwell and a PSA in combination with a digital exam is the best way to determine your prostate health.

To sum up.  Your prostate helps keep your participation in the fornicative and procreative arts alive.  It doesn’t kick up a fuss when it is unwell, so there are no symptoms to speak of.  A PSA blood test in combination with a digital examination is the best way to find out if things are in good order. 

As we all know, early detection means a much better chance at survival and the prostate is notorious for not kicking up a fuss until it’s almost too late.

If you want to learn more, www.ca.movember.com has links to Prostate Cancer Canada and several dozen other very good resources.

Remembrance Day


November 11th is the day we set aside to give thanks in remembrance of soldiers who have given their lives.  In Canada, it is Remembrance Day, the US calls it Veteran’s Day.  Other countries call it Armistice Day as it was the end of the First World War, the War to End all Wars, the Great War.

Regardless of the title, the objective of November 11th is to recognize those soldiers who have given their lives in the service of their country at the time of need.  Yes, sometimes the reasons for wars are misguided, bogus, or a gross manipulation of attitudes, but that isn’t why soldiers go.

They go because it is their duty.

Leaving out the politics and posturing, Remembrance Day is an obligation we have to take one minute out of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to honour those who served.  Not just those who served in the World Wars, or the Korean conflict, but those who have served in hundreds of tiny, vicious, brutal places like the Golan Heights, Cyprus, Somalia, the Congo, Bosnia, Rwanda and Afghanistan.

At the very least, have the courtesy to say Thank You.  If you’re not willing to stand behind our soldiers, you’re always welcome to stand in front. 

Movember Update II


There is more to Movember than just growing a moustache and here’s one of those things.

The high concept behind Movember is Men’s Health and the lack of interest and knowledge about what can be loosely called men’s health issues.  There are plenty of events and knowledge promoting women’s health:  Breast Cancer awareness, Run for the Cure, various tests and so on.  But Men’s Health, not so much.

The reason: Men don’t talk about their health, specific to the parts we don’t have in common with women.  To paraphrase Spike Lee; It’s a Man Thing, You Wouldn’t Understand.  We were and are brought up to tough it out, no matter what.  If a javelin is stuck through our head, we might consider seeing the doctor, but only because we’re having trouble getting through the revolving door at the office, or can’t get into the cab of the forklift. 

Which is utter bullshit.

Men absolutely do not, even under interrogation, admit to anything being abnormal, unwell or strange below the belt.  We don’t discuss it, we don’t ask our men friends any questions about the goods and we will not tell our doctors about anything that might be off.  It’s all perfect, wonderful, fully operational, potent, big and robust. 

Which is also utter bullshit.

The penis, testicles and prostate are as susceptible to medical problems as any other part number, male or female:  Cancer, inflammation, injury, decrease in operational effectiveness and so on are all just as prevalent in men, but being men, we’ll never admit it.  Which is why Movember exists:  Men should talk about it, and do what they can to prevent or find out about the afflictions that can potentially kill us.

As an informal survey here:  How many men check their testicles on a regular basis for swelling, tenderness or abnormal growths?  Hands up please?  That would be none, as best as I can see from here. 

You remember Tom Green?  Ex-husband of Drew Barrymore and one-time funny man?  He lost a testicle to cancer because he didn’t check his junk on a regular basis.        

We were never taught or told that yes, indeed you should check the boys every month or so.  Give them a good feel, look for unusual tenderness and run them through your fingers to check for swelling, or something misshapen.  Each testicle should be about the size of a walnut, give or take and shouldn’t be unusually tender.  Yes, testicles are tender, that’s their normal state, but if you’ve owned a pair for a while, you can tell if they’re more tender than they should be.  If you press on one and it goes “OwFuck!” then that’s not right and should be checked by a doctor.

The “Official” Junk test is here:  http://tcrc.acor.org/tcexam.html from the Testicular Cancer Resource Centre.  The issue they bring up is not to find cancer with a monthly self-exam, but to get used to what your testicular state of “normal” is, so you find anything odd, early enough. 

It’s the same drill with women and a breast cancer self-exam:  Get used to what is supposed to be there (there is a wide range of ‘normal’ be it tits or nuts) so you spot an anomaly early, then get it checked by a doctor.  Most women understand it, so why don’t men get it?  Because we are not as aware and have never been taught or told to check the junk on a regular basis.  Men, you have now been told and click on the link to be taught.

Can you turn this into a saucy event?  With a little imagination, a willing partner and some knowledge, you most certainly can.  One would think that you would have a reasonable base of knowledge about your partner’s bosomy delights and should feel comfortable enough with their geography to go touring on a regular basis, why not?  (As an interesting aside, about ten percent of the time it’s a partner who finds a breast lump.)  Since turnabout is fair play, invite your partner to be more involved in your health. 

Bottom line?  Check the Boys on a regular basis.  If you’re not sure about what you’re finding, then get to a doctor and have a medico give you guidance.

Movember


This is the month formerly known as November for me.  Yes, I am part of the Movember movement.  For those who don’t know about Movember, you can go here to find out more.  The short form is this:  Men are never taught about men’s health issues like prostate cancer.  One in six men will have some form of prostate cancer that could easily kill them and is just as easily detected with a simple blood test.

To raise money for, in Canada, Prostate Cancer Canada, many thousand men grow a Mo, as in Moustache and ask their friends, family, acquaintances and random strangers for donations to Movember.  Before you get all concerned, yes, Prostate Cancer Canada does have a CCRA Charitable Tax number which means donations are tax deductible.  Movember and PCC are legit, otherwise I wouldn’t be involved.

How can you help?  Ahh, now that is a good question.  This link leads directly to the team that I’m on:  BOC-ITS.  The other folks you see there are all colleagues and co-workers who happen to believe that 4,400 men dying of prostate cancer is wrong.  Your actual help can be in the form of a donation.  Or, if you want to join, hey, we’re one big tent, so come on in and raise some money for Movember.

The nice thing about Movember is you don’t even have to be a man to join.  Mo-Sistas are just as important and just as welcome as the Mo-Brothers. 

So, if you know someone who is a male of the species and you care about them, I’ll ask you to donate.

Yes, there will be pictures later, after this facial foliage grows in a little more.  Thank you.

 

 

  

Omar Khadr Gets 40 Long


Omar Khadr, the only Canadian-born detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba has been handed a 40-year sentence.  The backstory is long and controversial.  Khadr was 15 when he was engaged in a firefight with US troops in Afghanistan on July 27, 2002.  Evidence was presented that Khadr threw a grenade that killed Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer. 

We’re going to dodge around the child-soldier issue as Khadr met the UN definition of a child-soldier and despite that, has been tried as an adult. Canada is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The US, is not.

We’re also going to dodge around the culpability Khadr might have, as I wasn’t there and neither were you.  There has been too much written by third party sources who weren’t there, have never spoken to the parties involved and who wouldn’t know which end of a weapon is the nice end and which is the unpleasant end.  Political axe grinders?  We can hear plenty from them.

Yes, Omar Khadr pled guilty to the charges last week.  He did it to get a deal.  The deal was for his eventual release and repatriation back to Canada, so he had to fib, otherwise he’d be in Gitmo for the next forty years.  Unlike nationals from Australia, the UK and other countries who were held in Gitmo by the US in the Evildoers of the Axis of Evil Doers Axis post 9/11 roundup, Canada has never asked the US to send Khadr back to Canada to face trial here.  The US has sent several dozen Gitmo Guests back to their homeland because the US knew they had no hope in hell of getting a conviction. 

Except with Omar Khadr, the US knew that our Prime Minister, Stephen “Call me Stephen” Harper, was (and still is) such a p-whipped Dubya-wannabe that Canada wouldn’t dare ask for repatriation.  Harper didn’t disappoint.

The US military panel of three female and four male US Military officers returned their decision this afternoon, saying, despite the plea deal brokered with the prosecution, that Khadr should get 40 years.  Khadr has already served eight years at Gitmo and the deal was for eight more.  Khadr will be eligible to apply for transfer back to Canada after one more year in the jug.

It would seem that the best the US Military Judicial System can do is to force a child soldier into a a bogus plea bargain to pay for US soldiers killed in action.  And don’t forget, someone has to pay for the “Mission Accomplished” banner and carrier landing on the TR.

Here’s the final, telling point:  Although more than 1,200 US troops have been killed in Afghanistan, only one detainee has been charged and put on trial.  That would be Omar Khadr.  The rest have walked.