Monday, November 22, 2010

Israeli Air Travel Security Experts to TSA: You're doing it wrong.


My husband and I are lucky enough to have our immediate - and even extended - families within 150 miles from our home. As such, we really don't need to take a commercial flight anywhere. If we wish to take a vacation, we prefer to take road trips that are closer to home, due to certain budgetary/work restrictions, which prevent a more extravagant, lengthier  sojourn. That being said, I can still certainly appreciate the fact that flying is really the only logical option for some folks. Not everyone is able to simply hop on the interstate for two hours to see their families, and others may have to fly to reach their desired vacation destinations.

However, it's times like these that made me extremely glad that I don't have to spend time going through airport security - and sad for those who do. 

From three-year-old children being fondled in a manner that would get anyone else arrested, to the "Don't Touch My Junk" guy, all fliers are being told to either let someone intensely study your naughty bits through a machine, or allow the "trained professionals" at the TSA to molest you. There is no 3rd option, either...unless you consider ponying up $11,000 for the fine you'll get for refusing to allow the TSA to violate you as a valid option. 

(Oh, and remember how the government assured us that those XXX x-ray machines can't save/record imagesBig fat lie.

Now, I know that we can't be 100% protected. Everything we do in life involves risk. However, when implementing a new process/procedure, wouldn't anyone want to emulate the folks who have gotten the process as close to perfect as possible?
A leading Israeli airport security expert says the Canadian government has wasted millions of dollars to install "useless" imaging machines at airports across the country. 
"I don't know why everybody is running to buy these expensive and useless machines. I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747," Rafi Sela told parliamentarians probing the state of aviation safety in Canada. 
"That's why we haven't put them in our airport," Sela said, referring to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport, which has some of the toughest security in the world.
...Oh. Well, who is that guy to talk? He's probably just a new guy without any practical experience in the matter.
Sela, former chief security officer of the Israel Airport Authority and a 30-year veteran in airport security and defence technology, helped design the security at Ben Gurion.
Well, there goes that theory. 

Besides, as Sela testified before the Canadian parliament, he would be able to bring high-grade explosives onto a Canadian/American flight with great ease, even with the body scanners. 

So, Israel's airports seem to have it together, but what about their airlines?
According to Isaac Yeffet, the former security chief for El Al Israel Airlines, the United States should adopt El Al’s security approach of ensuring that every passenger is interviewed by a well-trained agent before check-in, a move that involves profiling passengers, which he said is not discriminatory.
El Al is considered by most security analysts as the most secure airline in the world because of its track-record in deterring hijackings and terror plots. The airline has been free of terrorist attacks for about 30 years and it has experienced only one hijacking in its history. Global Traveler magazine has named El Al as number one in its Best Airline for Security for the last three years in a row.
Yikes, he said the dirty word - profiling. 
Nonetheless, critics of American airliners adopting El Al’s security approach say it would violate passengers’ civil rights by allowing some passengers to be more intensely scrutinized than others. 
...Typical. But profiling isn't defined by the Israelis as our always-so-eager-to-find-a-victim friends on the left seem to define the word (emphasis mine). 
“...Profiling is not that I am choosing that I want to interview them. We don’t have discrimination [at El Al]. Every passenger--I don’t care who he or she is--has to be interviewed by security. We have to be polite. We know how to ask questions.”
The TSA [Transportation Safety Administration in USA] wants to tell me we now have security in this country--this is an illusion,” he said. “It’s not security. It’s about time that we are proactive and reactive. In this country we fear reactive, we don’t do anything to be proactive.”
This is absolutely, 100%, right on the money. Instead of wasting an inane amount of time scanning and searching nuns, flight attendants, and toddlers, proactive measures can - and should - be taken.Yeffet goes on to say that simply by asking a few simple questions, so much can be garnered from not only the answers themselves, but how the answers are delivered. This is asking a question, and methodically studying body language, tone/timbre of voice, etc. of the person to whom they are speaking. According to Yeffet, this method received little pushback from passengers, unless they had something to hide.

One other huge difference between the Israelis and our TSA agents, is the training. According to Sammy Elrom, a Homeland Security consultant, TSA training is completely insufficient. He states that TSA personnel is "not trained to gather and evaluate immediate threats," and instead is only focused on a specific list of disallowed items. As such, he goes on to say, that "weapons are not the problem, people are." By focusing on a psychological/passenger behavior approach to security, it only further prevents the potential of a terrorist utilizing an otherwise inconspicuous object as a means of bringing down a plane.

Look, I don't doubt the motives of Janet Nepolitano and the rest of the federal government. I know they only wish to keep us safe. However, our efforts are sorely misplaced. We are wasting valuable time violating the rights of completely innocent people by putting them through invasive, insulting, and degrading search procedures, looking for an ever-growing list of "stuff" that they may, or may not catch. Besides, the next time the terror threat is raised, what's the next step up in the security ladder - mandatory cavity searches for everyone?

The more time we waste looking for an ever-growing list of stuff and conducting unreasonable searches on toddlers and grandmothers as opposed to looking at behaviors, the less likely we will be to spot those who truly wish to do us harm.



***Cross-posted at Politicular.com***

Monday, November 15, 2010

Heartache: Blogger's Favorite TV Show Ruined by Pot Shots at Conservatives


I don't think it needs to be said that there is a lot - and I mean a lot - of complete crap on television these days. With reality shows over-saturating the airwaves, it can be a rare thing to find a good, old fashioned, scripted program, with real characters, and silly things like "plots" and such. In 2006, I thought I'd found that on ABC with "Brothers and Sisters."

The show focuses on the familial interactions between members of the Walker family. The story lines take place in their home state of California, and primarily deal with the myriad of complications, dramatics, and in-fighting that larger families tend to have. On the whole, the show is a heartwarming one, with excellent dialogue, and incredibly relatable moments sprinkled throughout the series.

Let's not forgot, though, that it's still a product of network television. As such, almost the entire family is predictably liberal, with the exception of "Kitty" - played by Calista Flockhart - who is a Republican pundit/political insider. At best, Kitty's character is a RINO, but still a strong character, regardless. Besides, let's not kid ourselves - it's California. I'll take what representation I can get as a conservative female.

On previous episodes, comments regarding any and all Republicans had been largely limited to jokes and friendly banter between Kitty and her liberal family members. It never felt cruel or mean-spirited. However, on November 14th's episode, that friendly banter turned, well, far more than that.

"Nora," portrayed by Sally Field, plays the mother of the five Walker children. Her character has recently tak en a job as a radio show host, hosting a program called, "Ask Mom," where she offers motherly advice to her callers. On this most recent episode, she is venting to her co-worker, "Carl," about a run-in she recently had with another fellow radio host,  who is none other than the station's conservative talk show host.

...I'm sure you can see where this is going (emphasis mine).
NORA:  Ignorant, small-minded, friggin' neanderthal!
CARL:  "...You must have finally met our very own Giddrick Reischel.
NORA:  Yeah. I foolishly listened to his stupid, right-wing call-in show last night on the way home from work and it was filled with - I mean filled with lies! Lies about global warming, lies about immigraiton, lies about healthcare...so right now in the hallway, I ran into him, and I thought I would set him straight about a few facts.
CARL:  Oh, Nora...
NORA:  ...You can't believe the vile things he said to me!
CARL:  You can't take it personally. He's like that with everyone.
NORA:  How can I not take it personally? He called my show, "Ask Madam Mau!"
CARL:  Take a breath. Now, do you know who the two biggest advertisers are on his show? Laser beam home security systems and herbal firm male potency pills. Now as a trained psychotherapit, that tells me two things about him and his audience - paranoid personality type, with accompanying morbid insecurity disorder.
Gee. Where do I even start.

Nora's opening line in this dialogue is a perfect example of how liberals react to a conservative viewpoint :  "stupid," 0f-lesser-mind, etc. It can't just be, you know, different from what you believe...it makes you less of a person! And really, ABC? You gave the conservative radio host a Germanic-sounding name? OH, I get it! He's a nazi! That's just hilarious.

In addition, all of the things that conservative radio hosts have been warning about with regards to global warming, immigration, and health care have proven to be anything but lies.

  • The Global Warming/Climate Change/Whatever-They'll-Call-It-Tomorrow alarmists are being proven as frauds bit-by-bitpiece-by-piece, with each passing day. Don't forget about the "For me, but not for thee" crowd, who demand that we submit to the Climate Change Gods, while they flutter around in fly private jets and spend over $500/month just to heat an indoor swimming pool
  • Conservatives aren't against immigration, but illegal immigration, and for good reasons. Sorry Nora, no artificial "fear-mongering" here. Our concerns are legit.
  • ...and Health Care Reform. I saved the best for last! Remember when President Obama assured us time and time again that our insurance costs would go down? Oh, wait, they  didn't? And what's this about some folks LOSING coverage as a result of this abomination of a bill? And WHO is the one lying again?
It's okay, Nora. Facts are hard.

The show's portrayal of conservative radio hosts as mean-spirited bomb-throwers when conversing with someone who holds opposing viewpoints is also completely absurd. Conservatives enjoy open, honest debates with anyone who is willing to do so, without relying on tired, vague talking points that lack any statistics, facts or substance (see:  everything the Obama administration regarding Health Care Reform).

The final insult was, indeed, the worst of them all. The "paranoid personality type, with accompanying morbid insecurity disorder" assertion may as well have been a simple re-wording of Obama's infamous "bitter and clinging" line.  And seriously? Male enhancement pills?  Over the last week, some of the sponsors I've heard for Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity's programs have included Carbonite (computer backup system), LegalZoom (a do-it-yourself legal website), and Lear Capital (an investment firm). If anything is to be garnered from these sponsors, it's that listeners of these radio programs are...responsible and successful.

 So what do we have at the end of the day - a network television program which portrays conservatives as nasty, overly-paranoid, bitter, clingy, nazi hatemongers, who could possibly function at the level of their more enlightened, liberal counterparts.

 Translation:  Just another day in liberal media paradise.

***Crossposted at Politicular***

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Awesome: The First Official High School Tea Party Group

One of the big issues my own county GOP is a lack of youth involvement. There are only a handful of folks in the county Young Republican group who meet regularly. There are some high school kids who helped out at a recent county GOP fundraiser I attended, but based on their behavior, I could tell they were largely there at the behest of their parents.

However, if this story is any predictor of things to come, it looks like some positive changes may be on the horizon. From Glen A. Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights, CA, meet
The A-Team:  the first High School Tea Party group to be officially recognized by the Tea Party Patriots. They have over 50 members, a faculty advisor, and receive absolutely zero financial support. As such, they have to come up with funds on their own to keep the group going. They are getting a lot of support on Facebook and are quickly gaining notoriety. 

Get ready to be impressed (emphasis mine). 

...We were clearly tired of students basing the GOP, the Tea Party Movement and conservative ideals off of liberally biased media stereotypes. We know that what is happening to country now would not only affect us, but also our future children and grandchildren as well. We wanted to bring back the cherished idea that American values are important and should be something we are proud of but also return to the ideals the Founding Fathers implemented in the Constitution.  
We are still a fresh movement, the first of its kind and we still have a long and exciting journey ahead of us. Our vision is clear: We believe in fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets like America was intended to have. We believe these principles are necessary in order for our country to be strong in the future.  
We have a vision, a dream, a goal, and a mission to protect those ideals and the rights of Americans even though we cannot vote as minors. As we took the steps from making our dream become a reality, I realized that if a group of young adults in a Californian public high school can start this movement, then anybody can do the same anywhere in the United States of America.  
We do not know yet the conflicts or opposition we may run into sooner or later, but we will carry on with the love, support, dreams, inspiration, and encouragement from Americans. We do not fear any attack from any critics because we know the truth and when you stand in the light of the truth nothing can tear you down.  
I send this message out not only to the adults of America , but to the young patriots of America . You are not alone! Take a stand! Stand Up and carry on the torch of truth and courage. I humbly ask all Americans to help support this movement by informing their children and grandchildren of our country’s history. To encourage them to educate themselves about what needs to be done in order to preserve the work our founding fathers laid out in order to secure our future. Like Ronald Reagan once said, “We'll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we'll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.”  
We are waiting. Together we will win because victory is inevitable.Because we know that our states are united by a history being forgotten and a future we shall face together. We are the A-Team, and we send this message so that our nation’s past will always be remembered. For in these memories, we will strive towards Life, Liberty , and the Pursuit of Happiness. 
To see a group of high school students not only organize on their own, but speak coherently and with such passion about their mission, I can only hope that more young people follow their lead. 

As I said, the groups is complete self-funded, and need donations to keep going.
Please consider giving to such a worth cause. These kids are the future of conservatism, and absolutely deserve our support!


A great big "hat tip" goes to "just a conservative girl" for initially hipping me to this story!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Jon Stewart Roasts Maddow, MSNBC for "Teabagger" Remarks

I really, really hate to say it, but I generally like Jon Stewart. I think he's a funny dude. I appreciate his sense of humor for what it is. I'm well aware that he's a liberal, and that many of his bits on "The Daily Show" take aim at conservatives, but he is equally capable of pointing out the absolutely moonbattery that takes place on his side of the aisle, and has done so frequently since Barack Obama took office.

As such, he was not afraid to challenge Rachel Maddow on her and MSNBC's conduct regarding the "Teabagger" remarks that fly around the failing news network so frequently and without reverence. The best part?
He did so while a guest on her show.



(emphasis my own) 
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: The caricature of the Left being as vociferous as the right is something that… 
JON STEWART: I don't think that's the caricature of the Left. I really don't. I think the caricature of the Left is one that is slightly that -- that – they use as a cudgel. Didn't you hate when the Republicans used to use the phrase DemocRat. DemocRat. 
MADDOW: The DemocRat Party. Has the word rat in it. 
STEWART: It seemed dickish. DemocRat Party. Or when you spoke out against the war, there was a subtle undertone of you're un-American, you don't want to win the war on terror. Well, I think that what also comes out sometimes from the other side is teabagger. Now that’s I think derogatory. And I don't think anybody would mistake it for that, for anything other than that. And it's been used on this network quite frequently, by hosts, by guests 
MADDOW: You don't think it was funny that they were calling them, they were saying tea bag the White House before the White House tea bags you? 
STEWART: I thought it was funny for a day. I thought it was funny for a day. 
MADDOW: Funny enough to play the John Waters clip of the teabagging thing on a bar? 
STEWART: For a day. Probably wouldn't have run with it with guests and things for months. 
MADDOW: I didn't run it for months. 
STEWART: No, but your part… 
MADDOW: But I got criticized for it for months. 
STEWART: Well, because you kind of made hay of it. You made more hay of it than maybe that, you know, that… 
MADDOW: Took the joke too far.
Maddow seems so desperate for Stewart to side with her, like someone trying to be liked by "the cool kid." It's quite, quite sad.

The truth is, though, that even Stewart can't side with her. MSNBC has overplayed the "Teabagger" angle, along with every other derogatory Tea Party/Republican/Conservative reference one can think of. Worse yet, they've done this to the point that their snark and incivility has been 100%, complete overkill - a far cry from the light-hearted, "Those silly Republicans...and occasionally, Liberals" attitude that allows Stewart to be so much more successful. Plus, Jon Stewart can actually be, um, funny.  Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow just come off as angry, bitter, and totally partisan.

Noel Sheppard, author of the Newsbusters article in which this clip appears, hits it out of the park.

And therein likely lies the real problem for both Maddow and Olbermann: in trying to inject humor into their reporting, they've both become farcical caricatures of newscasters that can't possibly be taken seriously.  
As much as they want to be considered as journalists, they also strive to be Jon Stewart. By contrast, he just sees himself as a satirist commenting on the day's events with as much humor as possible.
Jon Stewart is a left-winger with whom I disagree on many, many things. However, what makes him so successful, is that he knows he's just a smart-ass with a national audience, and doesn't expect anyone to take him seriously. He knows he can't be both a smart-ass and a serious journalist. Maddow and Company, on the other hand, do not.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Defiant Dems Desperately Blaming others, Trying to Play Hardball

Tuesday night's election results were a fierce punch in the gut for Democrats. With entrenched incumbents like Russ Feingold and Blanche Lincoln having their rears handed to them by their Republican opponents, not to mention the monstrous 60+ seats in the House which suffered the same result, many Democrats are failing to see the clear, unmistakable writing on the wall. 

First, you have some devout liberals confidently claiming that the en masse election of Republicans...means that Democrats
just weren't liberal enough.
Last night, Democrats lost seats. Those losses have been predicted since January... it's not news. What is news is that Democrats lost seats not for being too progressive -- they lost seats for not being progressive enough. Although some in Washington will undoubtedly try to make the public think that Democrats lost this election cycle because they fought too hard, did too much, and went too far left -- nothing could be further from the truth.
...Right. Sure. That's like saying that I'd pull the lever for a Progressive candidate because the Republican candidate was a RINO. If liberalism is your thing, why would you vote for the polar opposite?

Journalists aren't the only ones hitching a ride on the "Blame the Blue Dogs" bandwagon. Recently ousted 
Representative Alan Grayson (see also:  "crapweasel"), also believes that the Democrats' "strategy of appeasement" was the final nail in the electoral coffin. Yeah, he's right, but not for the right reasons; Blue Dog Dems campaigned on platforms that were far more conservative than the "big government" junk many of them ended up supporting (see: "bought off"). It's called "Bait and Switch," and it is not well received, um, ever. On top of that, exit poll data show that voters were indeed skeptical of the "more, not less" approach to governing, as well as being overwhelmingly opposed to two of the Democrats' biggest spending bonanzas, the stimulus package and the health care bill.

For the Democrats who were lucky enough to make it out alive, they came out swinging after the dust settled. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose re-election still smells funny, along with 
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, hopped on a conference call with the press on Wednesday, repeating the same tired argument. 
Reid, especially, renewed a threat he made before, that Republicans must stop obstructing and start cooperating...
 
“Republicans must take their responsibility to solve the problems of ordinary Americans,” Reid said. “Simply saying ‘no,’ as we’ve had this past Congress … won’t bring jobs back. It won’t strengthen the economy, and it won’t help families who are struggling to make ends meet. ‘No’ is not the answer. It has to be ‘yes.’ Not our ‘yes,’ but a combined ‘yes,’ something we work out — a consensus ‘yes.’”
 
“Playing to a draw in the United States Senate for political score is not acceptable to the American people,” added Durbin. “We need to work together. The Senate will be the crucible for some of the most important issues of our day.”
This one really, really burns me. They've got some serious stones to make that kind of statement. Republicans have been locked out of the political process - literally - along much of the way. C-SPAN even came out publicly against the administration's attempt to keep all of these locked-door, secret committee meetings, well, a secret, even after Obama promised C-SPAN free and open access to said meetings. Let's not forget our President, the Prince of Bi-Partisanship, while in a meeting Republicans discussing their concerns about the stimulus package, reminded Republicans to respect his authority, because he won.


Clearly, at this point, it's really not the Republicans who need to learn to play well with others.


Besides, Republicans should be the last group that Democratic leaders should be worried about. According to The Hill, a number of Democratic Senators who come up for re-election in 2012 could have some serious issues maintaining those seats. 
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.), in particular, could have a particularly difficult battle ahead of them, considering they come from states whose hues recently went from blue to red. Don't forget Ben Nelson, the Senator whose vote in favor of the health care bill was so easily sold. He couldn't even go out for pizza in his home state without being heckled out of the restaurant for casting such an unpopular vote. As such, the likelihood of his re-election is slim, and he may choose to retire as a result.  

The reality for Democrats is that they no longer have a majority in the House, and maintain a slight majority in the Senate, which could still easily become meaningless if only a handful of Blue Dogs defect, if only to save their own hides. Progressive Democrats are no longer in a position to ignore or demean their Republican colleagues and the ideas they bring to the table. The Liberal Wet Dream they once hoped to force down our throats at breakneck speeds is no longer going to happen. It's time that they accept it, and move on.