Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Still Not Flying This Thanksgiving

When the TSA aggrandized the terrorist threats to airport security, I rolled by eyes at the obvious attempt to manipulate public opinion.  But when the TSA inflated security measures from the sane to the ridiculous to meet the imaginary threats, I stopped flying.

Why?  Because I believe that anyone willing to give up his rights and liberties for the illusion of safety deserves neither.  Because I believe if enough people stop flying, the airlines will be effected.  No, I don't think that one person not flying will make a difference to them, but it would be rather hypocritical of me to suggest people stop flying when I still used the service.  I stopped flying because it was the one action available to me that allowed me to do whatever I could to protest the blatant violation of the 4th Amendment.

Earlier this year, the TSA stopped using the nude body scanners, due to public pressure.  But security still involves invasive pat-downs and less obnoxious body scanners.  Still, I thought about lifting my self-imposed no flying restrictions.  That is, until I read about Jonathan Corbett.

This man from Michigan sued the TSA over their ridiculous security procedures, with the first filing in 2010.  Earlier this year, someone in the court system published what was supposed to be a redacted version of a briefing.  In simple English, that means someone published text that the TSA did not want made public.

I downloaded the briefing (I love the power of the Internet!) and read through it.  Do you know what the TSA doesn't want made public?  Let me quote it for you.
No terrorist has attempted to take an explosive on board an airplane through a
U.S. airport since approximately 35 years ago
. Exhibit K, "American Airlines Flight
444," Wikipedia (Last Updated Sept. 28, 2013). All of the explosives brought on board
airplanes discussed in the administrative record happened outside of the United States.
And, even on the global scale, including Middle Eastern countries with extreme civil
unrest and a high prevalence of improvised explosive devices in use on the ground,
explosives on airplanes are extremely rare. For example, the TSA analyzed hijackings
in 2007, and found 7 hijacking incidents across the globe, but none of them involved
actual explosive devices. Admin. Rec., Vol 3, Doe. 136, p. 2196 (U//FOUO).
The hijackers on 9/li had no explosives; only knives. Notwithstanding, the
government concedes that it would be difficult to have a repeat of 9/11 due to hardened cockpit doors and the willingness of passengers to challenge hijackers
rather than assume a hijacking merely means a diversion to Cuba. Admin. Rec., Vol 3, Doc. 136,
p. 2197 (U//FOUO). The government also credits updated pre-flight security for that
difficulty assessment, but the assessment was written before the en masse deployment
of body scanners and before the update to the pat-down procedure. Id. Further, the
government admits that there have been no attempted domestic hijackings of any kind
in the 12 years since 9/11. Id.
This begs the question, then, of what evidence the government possesses to
rationalize that we should be so afraid of non-metallic explosives being brought aboard
flights departing from the U.S. that we must sacrifice our civil liberties. The answer:
there is none. "As of mid-201 1, terrorist threat groups present in the Homeland are not
known to be actively plotting against civil aviation targets or airports; instead, their
focus is on fundraising, recruiting, and propagandizing."
Admin. Rec., Vol 3, Doc.
137, p. 2219 (U//FOUO).
Even if TSA actually did deter terrorists from passing through TSA checkpoints
with explosives with its nude body scanners and invasive pat-downs, there is no
evidence that this prevents terror rather than merely shifting the target to buses, trains,
stadiums, or even the checkpoint of the terminal. In 2011, terrorists indeed detonated
an explosive device at an airport checkpoint at Domodevo Airport in Moscow, Russia.
Exhibit L, "Domodedovo International Airport bombing," Wikipedia (Last Updated
Aug. 3 1St, 2013). By using procedures that take significantly longer than the prior metal
detector search (a few seconds per passenger), the nude body scanners (22 seconds per
passenger) and pat-downs (about 3 minutes per passenger) extend the security lines,
creating a terrorist's dream target.
To sum it up, the government knows that there is negligible chance for a terrorist attacks, that there is an even smaller chance that someone would use explosives, and that the previously used walk-through metal detectors were in fact good enough.

This is why I am still not flying.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Braves Want to Move Where???

Last week, I read an announcement that the Atlanta Braves are building a new stadium in Cobb County. The verbiage on the announcement strongly implied that the new stadium will bring in an abundance of tax money, improve the economic conditions in the immediate area, create several high-paying jobs, and act like a cash cow for the county.  All Cobb County needs to do is contribute $300 million towards the construction costs.

I am not a baseball fan.  I don't have anything against the sport, I just don't find it interesting.  So I felt neutral on the idea of a new Braves stadium in Cobb.  But the idea of spending $300 million on a private investment?  I am not neutral on that.

My first thought on the situation was if a sports stadium is such a fantastic money maker, then why would private business want to share in the profit?  I know some stadium have done nothing but drain money from the surrounding area.  For example, Kings County in Washington is still paying on the King Dome, a structure that was demolished in 2000, but the bonds will not be paid off until 2016.  On the other side of the country, New Jersey won't finish paying off the bonds on the now demolished Meadowlands Sports Complex until 2025.

Turning to the Internet, I searched for data on the financial ramifications of a stadium on the local economy.  I found several studies that looked at several cities over various time spans.  But all the studies concluded the same thing.  In a best case scenario, a stadium manages to break even over the decades, with no discernible increase on the economic growth in the surrounding community.  Yet even in the best case scenario, a sports stadium consumes funds that could be used for more profitable opportunities.

In the worst case scenario, the stadium slows down economic growth in the surrounding community, sucks up tax dollars, and leaves the citizens with an enormous bill that requires years to pay off.

All in all, I hope the county commissioners vote either no to the stadium, or put up a public referendum.  Because I don't want to leave a $226 million legacy that future generations must pay. ($226 million was the amount remaining on the Meadowlands Sport Center in 2010.)

Monday, November 4, 2013

I'm Back with A Little Bit of Poetry

I've been spending the vast majority of my time these past few months editing my novel.  I must admit, I never knew that editing was such a time-intensive activity.  But I'm about three-quarters of the way through now.  Who knows, maybe I'll finish in time for Christmas?

As part of the editing, I need a new poem.  I ended up writing two poems.  Can you guess which one I used?

Poem #1:  I wished upon a star 
that blazed across the sky
I wished upon a star 
that brightened on nigh
I wished upon a star
as it fell from up high
and my wish for love and happiness
came true by and by

Poem #2:  I spent my life in mourning
                   for the life of which I dreamed
                   I wasted minutes, hours, days
                   on a sadness of the seemed
                   I used my time as a prisoner
                   chains of silence screamed
                   But now I know I chose to mourn
                   Instead of living as I deemed.

Freaky Friday News: Unicorn Licenses

Los Angeles County Gives a Young Resident a Unicorn License Last month, a resident of Los Angeles county, Miss Madeline, sent a handwritte...