The Corpus Callosum

I realize that in the spectrum of boneheaded moves by the
Administration, this one is not the most extreme.  Still, it
was a pretty dumb thing to do.

Federal Letters Tell Students They’re Security Threats

Published: May 13, 2008

WASHINGTON — A German graduate student in oceanography at M.I.T.
applied to the Transportation Security Administration for a new ID card
allowing him to work around ships and docks.

What the student, Wilken-Jon von Appen, received in return was a letter
that not only turned him down but added an ominous warning from John M.
Busch, a security administration official: “I have determined that you
pose a security threat.”

Similar letters have gone to 5,000 applicants across the country who
have at least initially been turned down for a Transportation Worker
Identification Credential, an ID card meant to guard against acts of
terrorism, agency officials said Monday.

Officials apologized for the language used, called it “unfortunate,”
but stated clearly that they have no intention of backing down.
 They will not soften the language, nor will they append a

But Ms. Howe, the agency spokeswoman, said that the
letters were legal, if flawed, and that there were no plans to send

Well, the letters may be legal.  But it also is legal to call the
president of the United States an asshole; that does not mean that
it is the right thing to do.  Nor does it mean it is the wrong
thing to do.  The legality of it is irrelevant.

It is very difficult ot imagine how a grad student in oceanography
could reasonably be considered a security threat.  

Ranting aside, the policy is a mistake.  One of the things
that previously kept the USA secure, was the tendency for smart,
capable people to want to come to the USA.  

Although the brain
can be detrimental to developing countries, it has been
enomously beneficial to the USA.  Now, we keep imposing
disincentives for bright people to immigrate.  This security
card situation is yet anothere example.  

Shutting off the inflow of talented persons is a big mistake.
 Combined with the rising
anti-intellentualism and anti-rationalism
in the USA, it
threatens the vitality of our nation.  


  1. #1 Zeno
    May 14, 2008

    But it also is legal to call the president of the United States an asshole; that does not mean that it is the right thing to do.

    Of course it’s the right thing to do. This statement has been factually correct since January 20, 2001, although it took awhile before people realized it.

  2. #2 Andrew
    May 14, 2008

    So in light of the new German threat to national security, how long to you reckon it will be before hamburgers are renamed Freedom Patties?

  3. #3 Katharine
    May 14, 2008

    In 2010, if McCain is elected and still calls us terrorists, I will wear the label with pride.

    Being at the forefront of innovation and progress in the United States and discovering new things and leading research is better than being a mindless idiot .

  4. #4 PhysioProf
    May 14, 2008

    There is nothing that the Bush regime does that is not a complete utter fuck-up. They are intentionally designed to fuck up everything they touch.

  5. #5 Noni Mausa
    May 15, 2008

    The damage, of course, goes far beyond the hurt feelings and/or terror of these grad students.

    The social bonds between fellow students, teachers, and researchers hold the whole world of scientific inquiry together, forging relationships which can last a lifetime.

    Now imagine yourself to be a promising German or Egyptian grad student, application form and credit card in hand, about to decide between two possible universities, one in the USA and the other in Canada or the Netherlands. Are you going to risk your $3800 or whatever, on a university in a country being policed by arbitrary maniacs? How much of your degree can you complete, you might ask yourself, before without warning you suddenly can’t get back in the country?

    China isolated herself, and China lagged behind the world. Then there are Russia and North Korea and a bunch of other isolated nations, none of them heavy-hitters when it comes to their economies. There are problems with free trade, but isolation is worse.

    And here they go, slamming the door on the fingers of some of the brightest up and coming people in the world.

    Republicans — if they leave any part of the nation unspoilt it will be because they hadn’t time to get to it.


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