Thursday Highlights

Good morning, err, evening. The “plan” is to resume morning links posting next Monday. Let’s double the density today.

  1. Two odd news items, on the first, I think “alcohol was involved” was a missing tagline and justice is served with a pan.
  2. The hybrid and the bear and speaking of gas cars, I wonder how the team and drivers deal with that.
  3. Considering liberty … and justice … and the Constitution.
  4. Learning. Maths. Languages.
  5. Music: A song and charted.
  6. Choices choices. And an aftermath of a choice not consciously made, but for which one is surprisingly thankful.
  7. Is it cheating? Will marriage be an unfair advantage someday? Back to choices?
  8. The big regrettable government/industry complex and another one here.

13 Responses to Thursday Highlights

  1. Pingback: Simply Classical Highlights

  2. Re: our TSA discussion a while back, this supports my point:

    According to one report, undercover TSA agents testing security at a Newark airport terminal on one day in 2006 found that TSA screeners failed to detect concealed bombs and guns 20 out of 22 times. A 2007 government audit leaked to USA Today revealed that undercover agents were successful slipping simulated explosives and bomb parts through Los Angeles’s LAX airport in 50 out of 70 attempts, and at Chicago’s O’Hare airport agents made 75 attempts and succeeded in getting through undetected 45 times.

    No security is happening. It’s security theater designed to cover politicians’ asses and line the pockets of contractors. And the American people are just rolling over and saying, “Go ahead, look at me naked. Feel my crotch.”

  3. JA,
    Hmm. It supports another of my points as well. If you have to do anything, government is the absolute worst way to do it, ergo it should be your last choice and only left for those things which cannot be done any other way.

    Let me ask you this, if you wanted good security at airports and you contracted private firms to provide security and and paid them primarily based on their effectiveness in beating such tests and paid the testers based on their ability to slip through. I’d think that the security company for example at one airport could be in the business of fooling the security at another airport.

    The point is TSA has no incentives. They have no mandate to provide anything but security theater. This wasn’t the intent of course. But it is the effect.

  4. Oh please. Talk about “when you only have a hammer…”

    The TSA is security theater not because it’s government-run but because its mission is ridiculous. It’s just not possible to provide genuine security at the price (financial and otherwise) we’re willing to pay. And even if we were to spend 100 times as much and make every passenger both naked and unconscious for the duration of the trip and reached Israel-level airplane security (which is government run by the way!), the terrorists would have to just… attack some other target. In Israel, they just bombed buses and restaurants. What are we going to do then? Bag searches at every door? Guys with Uzis on every corner? Routinely shutting down city blocks because there’s a bag sitting on the road unaccounted for?

  5. No incentives? Just make a part of compensation contingent upon their success rate at flagging the simulated smugglers.

  6. Boonton,
    I’ve just suggested incentives. Odd that.

    JA,
    At somewhat less than the price we pay, I have suggested that privatization + incentives could provide effective airport security. Your counter is that … gee, then they’d attack all sorts of other venues. They don’t have the density to attack like they do in Israel. Now … if we go for your open immigration, perhaps they can change that. :D

  7. I think the problem is more with the metric. If a bonus was based on the % of fake bombs detected I’m sure few if any would get through next time they ran the test. But the metric simply doesn’t ring true to me. How exactly were these fake explosives missed? Did the testers use their knowledge of the TSA to get thru ‘back doors’? Were problem areas targetted because management wanted to make a public case for more money? Without a real analysis of the test all you have JA is a talking point but not much more.

    But here’s the problem, if you pay for passing the screening test you’ll get passing the screening test. But that means more instrusive searches of everyone. You don’t really solve the problem with privatization because you are still stuck with deciding what you want to pay for.

    Let’s be real. Do you really think it would be easy to bring a gun, a grenade or a body held explosive through the screening lines? I don’t….and we have the odd fact that it would appear that almost no one has beat the screening lines in the US and it appears that terrorists haven’t even tried to do so, opting instead to try other types of attacks. This tells me that either terrorists are being ‘fooled’ by the ‘security theater’ or that your claims of ‘security theater’ are overblown. The people with the most incentive not to get caught seem to not be very eager to call the ‘theater’ bluff.

  8. Mark:

    At somewhat less than the price we pay, I have suggested that privatization + incentives could provide effective airport security. Your counter is that … gee, then they’d attack all sorts of other venues.

    Well that’s counter #2. Counter #1 is that Israel’s STATE-RUN security does what our security only pretends to do… without buying into your free-market religion. Funny how you just ignore that point.

    They don’t have the density to attack like they do in Israel.

    Really? New York is less dense than Israel?

    Now … if we go for your open immigration, perhaps they can change that. :D

    Seriously? Because the current situation makes it so hard for people to sneak in? Open immigration would actually help because if we made it easy to immigrate legally, it would make illegal immigrants stick out much more.

    Boonton:

    Let’s be real. Do you really think it would be easy to bring a gun, a grenade or a body held explosive through the screening lines?

    Yes, absolutely. I really think it would be relatively easy to send 5-10 guys through security in various airports hiding explosives and have at least a few of them (and probably a majority of them) get through. Guns would also be doable. But also note your artificial limitation “through the screening lines.” Why would terrorists attack the strongest point? Wouldn’t it be easier to exploit other vulnerabilities? Shady/blackmailable TSA employees? Cargo? Airport employees? Pilots? Imposter pilots? Improvise weapons out of materials bought inside the terminal? Etc.

    The TSA is like an iron door in a rotting wood frame.

  9. JA,

    Your evidence that the TSA is easy to get thru is from 2006 and 7, actually in the big scheme of things that feels like quite a while ago.

    The other ‘holes’ you identify all seem to require either a large number of terrorists working together (but not standing out to scrutiny) or penetrating US security with ‘double agents’ of some sort. Not impossible but this does place a demand on Al Qaeda that is a step above what they are normally able to pull off.

  10. JA,
    Density … you might of asked “of what” because as you note that population is not the answer. Now you could have chided me for leaving you to guess the units. But, density of very angry Muslims is the issue, not generic people.

    Seriously, I think it is hard for the average Middle Easterner to “sneak” in to the US to live here.

    Funny how you think incentives are worthless. All it takes is government apparently.

    Boonton,
    Again, you are intentionally being dense to further your point. Yes, badly drawn incentives don’t work. But, turn your thoughts around. Don’t suggest that the metric is flawed per se, but can you think of a way to design a good metric and incentive scheme that would work? Yes, if you pay to pass a screening test you get a system that can pass the screening test. But for example, if you pay one group to stop “stuff” and another to sneak stuff through. So you have one groups incentives are based on effectiveness of stopping tests (and real stuff) and another testing cadre who’s incentive is based on successfully getting test failures and finding flaws.

  11. Actually a simple job has a single metric, most jobs have multiple ones. I’d have a metric on clearing lots of people per hour. A metric on % of staged attacks stopped, a metric on customer complaints/surveys. Then establish weights. In outsourcing its not unheard of to base compensation on a range of ten or more metrics.

    In reality I simply do not buy that it’s ‘easy’ to get a serious weapon thru the TSA system. Reports have to be examined closely. I remember once a very long time ago I was watching William F Buckley interview a general on his old Firing Line show. The general claimed simulations had shown that if North Korea attacked South Korea, the US would loose the war even if it used up to 50 nuclear weapons. I believe his simulation did show that, but I don’t believe for a moment that if N. Korea did attack and US troops in the south were fighting for their lives and had up to 50 nukes to help them they would end up surrendering. But this ‘report’ worked for him as it generated a talking point for those who wouldn’t press him on it.

  12. Boonton:

    Your evidence that the TSA is easy to get thru is from 2006 and 7, actually in the big scheme of things that feels like quite a while ago.

    The big changes are the pat downs and scanners. It’s likely that you can sneak explosives through the scanners and obviously you could have pretty much anything small inside your anus or even mouth.

    The other ‘holes’ you identify all seem to require either a large number of terrorists working together (but not standing out to scrutiny) or penetrating US security with ‘double agents’ of some sort. Not impossible but this does place a demand on Al Qaeda that is a step above what they are normally able to pull off.

    They had about 20 people working together on 9/11.

    Mark:

    Density … you might of asked “of what” because as you note that population is not the answer. Now you could have chided me for leaving you to guess the units. But, density of very angry Muslims is the issue, not generic people.

    Well it’s true I assumed you meant population, but why would density rather than total number of very angry Muslims be the issue? Obviously we have tons of Muslims in this country and we’ve already had at least a few angry enough to try to commit terrorism (shoe bomber, the DC snipers.)

    Seriously, I think it is hard for the average Middle Easterner to “sneak” in to the US to live here.

    Again, millions of Muslims already here.

    Funny how you think incentives are worthless. All it takes is government apparently.

    Never ever ever did I say incentives are worthless. Why do you insist on addressing arguments I did not make over the ones I did make? I DID make the argument that the Israeli government managed to do this without privatizing the matter. So I have real-world evidence that governments can do it. And yet you insist the problem is that it’s run by the government. In other words, you’re wrong, I’m right and all you can think to do is pretend I wrote something different.

  13. The big changes are the pat downs and scanners. It’s likely that you can sneak explosives through the scanners and obviously you could have pretty much anything small inside your anus or even mouth.

    When I flew the screeners engaged you in brief conversation. A serious weapon in your mouth probably would be tricky (and even if you had the KGB or CIA behind you, I doubt a mouth can store enough explosive to bring down a full sized plane, I could be wrong but people I’ve discussed this on Ordinary Gentl. seem to think its unlikely even the underwear bomber could have brought down the plane unless he set it off in a few optimal areas of the plane). In terms of guns and grenades, I don’t think they wouldn’t set off a metal detector, let alone scanner.

    AS for ‘only change’, again why did so many fake weapons slip thru the drill from 4 years ago? We aren’t told. Were the scanners not paying attention for example? If so the changes might have happened behind the scenes.

    They had about 20 people working together on 9/11.

    True but only as crowd control as plane hijackers. Getting sleepers hired as TSA agents, impersonating pilots or crews, or even just getting an overwhelming terrorist force on boad a plane would make an operation harder.

    Obviously we have tons of Muslims in this country and we’ve already had at least a few angry enough to try to commit terrorism (shoe bomber, the DC snipers.)

    Actually the DC sniper wasn’t a terrorist. His motive was to kill his ex-wife in order to regain custody of his kids. His strategy was to use the distraction of the ‘random sniper’ to make killing his ex-wife appear like a random act of violence.

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