Effect Measure

The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) is one of the most maligned and hated federal agencies. And for good reason. They are worse than useless, performing uncounted acts of “security theater” (in Bruce Schneier’s apt coinage), like confiscating water bottles and making you take off your shoes. The TSA also has an active use of “behavior detection officers” whose job it is recognize the telltail signs of a terrorist intention — like looking anxious before getting on an airplane. The TSA claims the program, which is now in operation at 150 major airports and employs almost 2500 behavior officers (soon to increase to 3500), is “incredibly effective” at catching airport criminals. Unfortunately the TSA’s own figures say otherwise:

A TSA program launched in early 2006 that looks for terrorists using a controversial surveillance method has led to more than 160,000 people in airports receiving scrutiny, such as a pat-down search or a brief interview. That has resulted in 1,266 arrests, often on charges of carrying drugs or fake IDs, the TSA said.

[snip]

“That’s an awful lot of people being pulled aside and inconvenienced,” said Carnegie Mellon scientist Stephen Fienberg, who studied the TSA program and other counterterrorism efforts. “I think it’s a sham. We have no evidence it works.” (Thomas Frank, USAToday)

On the one hand, a 1% success rate doesn’t sound so good, but when converted to 1266 arrests it sounds significant. On the other hand, TSA doesn’t claim it has caught a single terrorist this way. We don’t know how many of the arrests led to convictions, but they are almost all for false IDs, drugs or other non-terrorist alleged violations. We don’t know how many arrests would be made if we just randomly searched people in the general community, something forbidden by the Constitution. Thus in terms of finding terrorists, the positive predictive value of this technique would seem to be zero.

This is not a surprise. We noted recently that the National Academy of Sciences recently had a committee examine this issue and they came to the conclusion that these techniques don’t work. The reason is not that they are too insensitive, as one of the designers of the program, psychologist Paul Ekman, claimed (“The shortcoming is, we don’t know how many people are showing suspicious behaviors and aren’t being noticed,” Ekman said). The problem is that the proportion of terrorists trying to get on airplanes is vanishingly small. Suppose that behavioral detection were so sensitive that you picked every single terrorist trying to get on an airplane. There are about 750 million passenger trips this year, so let’s say one in ten million involves a terrorist, or 75 terrorist trips. Let’s also say that the behavioral test IDs them all (highly unlikely) but also makes a mistake in about one in a ten thousandth of a percent of passenger trips. That’s 750 false positives. That means for behavioral detector whose skills are 100% sensitive and 99.9999% specific (meaning he tags the wrong person only once per million times) the positive predictive value would still be only 10%. So it isn’t at all surprising that the PPV of the current system is functionally zero and probably exactly zero. It’s a fool’s errand.

The people who design and institute these systems haven’t thought them through. Actually, that’s much too charitable. They are incompetent nincompoops who have no idea what they are doing.

Comments

  1. #1 LindaCO
    November 19, 2008

    “The problem is that the proportion of terrorists trying to get on airplanes is vanishingly small.”

    It makes so much sense when you put it that way!

    There probably are a lot of people who are just plain nervous about flying (and thus exhibit something other than normal behavior) who draw this sort of surveillance as well.

  2. #2 Paul
    November 19, 2008

    Now I may properly br considered as behaving like a troll. I’m hoping I can post this on this more recent blog, it’s being totally irrelevant to the topic. I had one more comment to make about my misunderstood posting of Sunday, but when I tried to submit it, I got an error message that I hadn’t filled out my name and email address, which I had. After a couple repeated tries, my conlcusion was that Dr. Revere had either closed any further comments on a resolved dead-horse issue, or perhaps blocked me specifically from further posts on any of his blogs.

    Since I’d spent some considerable thought and time composing it, I’m taking the liberty to post it here – if it even goes through. If it does, I hope Dr. Revere and his readers will forgive my lack of protocol. More than likely I will be banned for life, but, such is life. Here it is. Hope she flies:

    I’m probably the only one left obsessing over this old dust-up, but I thought of one further point in my defense (not a retraction of yesterday’s mea culpa) as that was sincere, and properly resolved by Daedalus’ spot-on diagnosis of that “not really that offensive,” remark, which was justifiably misconstrued as pertaining to the main gist of *this particular* free Sunday sermon posted by Dr. Revere. That point being: *that most of his Sunday sermons also concern politics!*

    Realizing this, I was making no distinction between his political postings, per se, with which I don’t agree, and usual Sunday sermons, which are not all that distinguishable from his “lay” political postings. For once, I was struck by the conciliatory spiritual (please bear with that adjective) nature of this particular sermon. Therfore, this one was not offensive (at all). But my qualifier was evoked by his previous policital postings, which appeared in both separate posting and sermon format. But this unusual (in my perception) conciliatory sermon (good will to all men) prompted my even bothering to respond.

    As an aside, and part of my background conditioning, when I used to attend a Sabbath (Saturday) service to appease my now, former wife, and set an example for the kids (which I am now glad I did do – in my current life), I couldn’t stand it whent the rabbis (almost universally of liberal views – the Conservative and Reform ones, that is) would dedicate their sermons to politics, and not to spiritual matters pertinent to the portion of the Torah being read that week. Since I couldn’t stand what they were espousing to their “captive” audience (I thought of it as bait and switch), I would just get up and walk out until the sermon was done. This caused many turning heads, for which I was glad – my silent protest hadn’t gone unnoticed.

    Just expaining to this “rough jury” why my remark really was inadverent and indiscriminate, applying it to the sermon which actually moved me to contribute to it, as I had been similarly conditioned by so many of Dr. Revere’s previous political observations presented cynically (in my opinion ) in the format of “sermons.”

    An while I’m at it, I may as well apply to Dr. Revere the same observation I did to those rabbis “preaching” politics. Though they may have been knowledgable theologians and learned scholars of the Torah, just as Dr. Revere is demonstrably highly qualified in the sciences, that gives neither any more credentials nor validity to their political opinions and observations than any other citizen who follows political events.

    There, now I feel even better. Have a great Thanksgiving everyone (just being cute – lighten up, will ya?)

  3. #3 Sean Eddy
    November 19, 2008

    Another way to look at it, though, is that you’re trying to minimize a very asymmetric cost function — false positives and false negatives have very different consequences. The consequences of missing even one “terrorist trip” are assumed to be catastrophic, whereas false positives “only” have to deal with secondary screening and inconvenience. If that’s the decision problem, it’s not at all clear that the system is designed incompetently, especially if we use the example numbers you assigned (perfect sensitivity in particular.)

    Plenty of problems arise where you have an entirely rational tolerance for near-zero PPV, because of a highly asymmetric cost function. (High throughput small molecule screening in the pharmaceutical industry, for example; you’ll gladly put 1000 duds through secondary screening to come up with a real lead compound.)

    I think better grounds to object to TSA’s procedures would be the question of sensitivity, not PPV. Can you reliably detect a real terrorist with TSA’s procedures at all? How would TSA possibly be able to know?

  4. #4 revere
    November 19, 2008

    Paul: I don’t know why you couldn’t post a comment. I almost never ban anyone or close out a comment thread. Just for the record.

  5. #5 revere
    November 19, 2008

    Sean: You make valid points, although I don’t know how asymmetric the cost function is if we were to account for the false positives properly and had a better estimate of the true positives. But my point was that the extremely terrible PPV (which is what the user sees and governs the diligence and use of the system in many cases) was foreseeable given even the most rosy estimates of the effectiveness of the tool. No one in the world thinks that it is anywhere near as accurate as I allowed. Your point about sensitivity is correct, although any test can be easily made 100% sensitive (just call all cases positive). Which reveals the problem in a nutshell.

  6. #6 Joshua Zelinsky
    November 19, 2008

    There’s been some work by Martin Shubik on the economics of terrorism (I know about this because my brother co-authored some of the material) where they looked at the measure of how much damage in dollars a terrorist can do per a dollar of financing. (And yes, they acknowledge this is a very rough metric). They found a number of interesting results such as the fact that it appeared that terrorism was becoming more economically efficient, and that you had expected economies of scales. But the relevant data point here is that by their metric one of the the most efficient terrorist attacks ever was Richard Reid. An otherwise unproductive individual is effectively sacrificed in an attack (since he’s going to be in prison indefinitely) and the consequence is that every day millions of people are inconvenienced in their travel.

  7. #7 John Gardner
    November 19, 2008

    I know its a false argument, but couldn’t you say that since September of 2001, the TSA has been 100% effective? There have been exactly 0 terrorist attacks on US soil using flights originating in the United States?

  8. #8 revere
    November 19, 2008

    John: Since you know it’s a false argument, why make it?

  9. #9 CRM-114
    November 19, 2008

    It’s not simply security theater, it is counterfeit security. Theater can be free. If you have to pay for something real and you get stuck with something phony, you’ve been cheated, defrauded by counterfeiting.

    The solution is to prosecute these people. Fill the prisons with them and they’ll stop bothering us.

  10. #10 Gerry L
    November 19, 2008

    Last month I flew (on a commercial airline) for the first time in more than a year. While re-shoeing my feet, I wondered: In the 5 or so years since the guy tried to light his shoe on that cross-Atlantic flight, how many explosive shoes have been stopped at TSA checkpoints? Anyone know?

  11. #11 M. Randolp;h Kruger
    November 19, 2008

    Folks, I sent via link here the types of bombs that have been interdicted by TSA/FAA/CASB/Airport Police across the last 5 years. Very, very neat little sewing machines if I dont say so myself.

    We have to assume at least one terrorist per device so I think I know of about 30 homemades in the last five years for sure. They were of course taken away and likely never heard from again. But alas, we are now going to be negotiating and allowing them to grow stronger as part of our national policy. Sigh…

    So, the first airliner that goes down or any transportation center that gets bombed they will simply say we didnt do enough, we spent our money in the wrong way, or that we actually bombed it ourselves. It just goes with the program.

    So lets be honest…Revere just doesnt like the pat downs, magnetometers, or taking his shoes off. I am an airport person and I have to do it every day I go in. I also have to do it going out. Yes, its operated by idiots being led by bigger idiots. It actually became a jobs bill so the Dems couldnt resist it. Worked fine until the security clearances came back and thousands had to be let go because they were actually crims out on the street. So he is right and wrong.

    I personally think everyone should go thru the machines, but then people should be randomly singled out afterwards for what is known as a bare bones search. They dont want to do it? Fine, they dont get on the plane. They hustle them down to the security area and put them in the mens/womens room and they get strip searched. But I can hear the ACLU talking about terrorism like its a law enforcement problem already.

    But why bother with all of this? The small airports with a 5000 foot long strip can handle small jets such as a Falcon, Lear, Challenger. Shoot the airport guys (no security there anyway), open the hangar doors, roll your truck up with your materials and lets go flying. The only thing that could stop them is an anti aircraft battery and they currently dont have those at any of the chemical manufacturers. But there I go again, making sense. Cant have that now can we. All those terrorists have rights.

    Cynical? You bet. The amount of damage that a single incident caused to the economy was huge. What will they do when a major, coordinated attack comes in multiple cities at once.

    The answer? Get them a lawyer.

  12. #12 M. Randolp;h Kruger
    November 19, 2008

    Folks, I sent via link here the types of bombs that have been interdicted by TSA/FAA/CASB/Airport Police across the last 5 years. Very, very neat little sewing machines if I dont say so myself.

    We have to assume at least one terrorist per device so I think I know of about 30 homemades in the last five years for sure. They were of course taken away and likely never heard from again. But alas, we are now going to be negotiating and allowing them to grow stronger as part of our national policy. Sigh…

    So, the first airliner that goes down or any transportation center that gets bombed they will simply say we didnt do enough, we spent our money in the wrong way, or that we actually bombed it ourselves. It just goes with the program.

    So lets be honest…Revere just doesnt like the pat downs, magnetometers, or taking his shoes off. I am an airport person and I have to do it every day I go in. I also have to do it going out. Yes, its operated by idiots being led by bigger idiots. It actually became a jobs bill so the Dems couldnt resist it. Worked fine until the security clearances came back and thousands had to be let go because they were actually crims out on the street. So he is right and wrong.

    I personally think everyone should go thru the machines, but then people should be randomly singled out afterwards for what is known as a bare bones search. They dont want to do it? Fine, they dont get on the plane. They hustle them down to the security area and put them in the mens/womens room and they get strip searched. But I can hear the ACLU talking about terrorism like its a law enforcement problem already.

    But why bother with all of this? The small airports with a 5000 foot long strip can handle small jets such as a Falcon, Lear, Challenger. Shoot the airport guys (no security there anyway), open the hangar doors, roll your truck up with your materials and lets go flying. The only thing that could stop them is an anti aircraft battery and they currently dont have those at any of the chemical manufacturers. But there I go again, making sense. Cant have that now can we. All those terrorists have rights.

    Cynical? You bet. The amount of damage that a single incident caused to the economy was huge. What will they do when a major, coordinated attack comes in multiple cities at once.

    The answer? Get them a lawyer.

  13. #13 Moderately Unbalanced Squid
    November 19, 2008

    I’ve been wondering about the whole idea of no major attacks in the US since 2001, and I’m warming more and more to the idea that as incompetent as our own security people may be, it appears the terrorists are likely as incompetent or more incompetent when trying to operate in a western country.

    At home they have considerable advantages, but here, even reading about the individuals who carried out the 9/11 attacks, these people stuck out like a sore thumb (wanting to learn to fly planes but not land them?) and almost attracted the attention of the FBI before they could pull it off.

    Eventually, some competent terrorists may come along, but I sincerely hope it will not be for a long while.

  14. #14 Joshua Zelinsky
    November 20, 2008

    A few remarks: 1) there’s an argument that security theater isn’t completely a bad thing if it a) discourages casual terrorists(although I have to have trouble believing this population is very large) or 2) encourages peace of mind in the general populace. 3) it catches the more incompetent terrorists. Now, the level of security theater is probably far higher than necessary for any of those goals.

    As far as I can tell the main reason there haven’t been any major attacks on US soil is because the they have been busy taking out targets in Iraq an Afghanistan (I don’t think most of the attacks there constitute terrorism but that’s a separate classification issue). So we have kept most of our civilian population safe at the cost of billions of dollars, the lives of thousands of our soldiers and the lives of hundreds of thousands of people from other countries. That’s not a great tradeoff. And it has very little to do with any security measures we’ve implemented.

  15. #15 Lisa
    November 20, 2008

    No, you’ve got it backward – they’ve been 100% ineffective. Since Sept 2001 they have not caught a single terrorist. Despite presumably having the terrorists rather badly outnumbered.

  16. #16 Brian
    November 20, 2008

    Evaluating the effectiveness of anti-terrorism measures in the U.S. by looking at the incidence of terrorist attacks post-9/11 makes no sense (to me) at all. What is the mean frequency of terrorist attacks against the U.S.? If it’s less frequent than 1 attack every 7 or 8 years, then how can we accurately assess the “security theater” for its effectiveness?

  17. #17 Poster Paul EoS Blogger Team
    November 20, 2008

    Poster Paul from the TSA EoS Blogger Team here. There are a few things that need to be addressed here.

    The argument (or implication) that hiring 3,500 BDOs is a waste of resources doesn’t hold water. While 1% doesn’t sound very impressive, I wonder what percentage of carry-on bags actually contain prohibitted items? My guess is less than 1%. In fact, I don’t need to guess. It definitely is less than 1%. Should we stop screening carry-on bags for weapons and bombs because of this low percentage? Obviously not.

    Now, to address the National Academy of Sciences study. Without even reading the study, results cannot possibly be conclusive. You quote psychologist Paul Ekman as saying, “The shortcoming is, we don’t know how many people are showing suspicious behaviors and aren’t being noticed.”

    Any study performed with the goal of measuring the statistical significance of a particular variable (in this case # of true positive IDs by BDOs), needs to quantify 1) the number of data points being analyzed (this would be ALL passengers going through security where BDOs are present, not just 160,000 pulled out for secondary screening), 2) the number of true positive IDs (1,266), 3) the number of false positive IDs (158,734) 4) the number of true negative IDs (this represents people that BDOs did NOT pick out for secondary screening who were NOT doing anything wrong, which is unknown), 5) the number of false negative IDs (people who were NOT picked out by BDOs who WERE doing something wrong, which is also unknown)

    If anyone would like to respond, please visit http://www.tsa.gov/blog and post a comment under “Blogger Paul’s Intro”

    Thank you for your time. Looking forward to beginning the discussion.

  18. #18 Constance Reader
    November 20, 2008

    Paul EoS Blogger:

    Nobody is saying you should stop screening carry-on bags for weapons bombs. We are saying that you should stop screening carry-on bags, shoes, laptops, clothing and everything else not biologically attached to our bodies for tweezers, toothpaste and Zagnut bars.

  19. #19 Nomen Nescio
    November 20, 2008

    I wonder what percentage of carry-on bags actually contain prohibitted items?

    given the outrageous inanity, and unreasonable expansiveness, of the list of prohibited items, i should be very surprised if more than half of carry-on bags did not contain at least something notionally prohibited. in fact, failure to find something prohibited in an average carry-on bag should probably be considered a failure of imagination (or a lack of initiative, or of care) on behalf of the screener.

    in other words: how common “prohibited” items may be is nowhere near as big a problem as what manner of items have been prohibited. that list, too, is part of the scenery backdrop for the security theater, and utterly useless when it comes to actually making anybody any safer.

  20. #20 M. Randolph Kruger
    November 20, 2008

    Constance, toothpaste and a zagnut bar are potential threats whether you understand the possibilities or not. Its very easy to make binary weapons from all sorts of ordinary household chemicals. What may look like candy could be chocolate covered C4 or Compositions B. ‘

    Four or five terrorists operating in coordination can bring enough materials onto a plane to bring it down. All they do is mix them together and use an initiator to set it off. A single 12 gauge primer which is less than the size of a penny and an ink pen have been successfully demonstrated to be able to initate as big (so far) as a 2000 lb fertilizer bomb. Its granted a stage up weapon but its a lot easier to set off a pound or two of plastique against a window in a plane. Thats all it takes as the inside is pressurized.

    I can fully understand that tweezers and toe nail clippers dont present much of a threat but I have personally seen contraband that was far more deadly than that.

    We were asking for it before 9/11 with the knives and box cutters because no one thought that they would jack the planes and use them as flying bombs…They were wrong of course but only because people felt they had the right to NOT be on a plane in a manner that put them into unsafe proximity. WE were completely wrong on that too.

    Just be glad it wasnt a tanker car on the outskirts of New York City. Dont even need to fly a plane for that one. A good solid wind, a couple of pounds of explosives and 3800 would have been what came in on the first wave in the ambulances.

    Nomen, ifs unreasonably expansive except when a plane goes down. I guess when it happens you sit there and say they should have banned “XXX”.

  21. #21 Constance Reader
    November 20, 2008

    Kruger, if what you write were valid, then no person traveling anywhere by any means should be allowed to purchase any substance or object and carry it with them. Timothy McVeigh used fertilizer and a U-Haul truck. Shall we ban persons renting trucks from carrying greater than 3 oz of fertilizer?

    If what you say were valid, then items for sale inside airport security are also potentially dangerous and thus every restaurant and shop currently inside airports must be closed down because all of their stock must come in from the outside. All airport employee meal breaks must be banned because potentially dangerous items can be brought in with a lunchbox and since we’ve banned all restaurants and shops as potentially unsafe, there is nowhere for them to purchase food at work. All food and drink on airplanes must be banned because the distributors could be loading the planes up with potentially dangerous substances in the guise of peanut bags (don’t forget those lethal allergies!) and Coke cans, because those items come into the airport from the outside.

    EVERYTHING is potentially dangerous, Kruger. That’s no excuse to institute arbitrary bans and violate basic privacy (not to say common fucking sense).

  22. #22 revere
    November 20, 2008

    Randy: No, it’s not easy to make binary weapons. It’s very hard. The shoe bomber couldn’t have blown up jack shit. This has been discussed on the net ad nauseam.

  23. #23 Nomen Nescio
    November 20, 2008

    if MRK was correct, then the only reasonable and safe way to travel would be stripped naked, blindfolded and gagged, and strapped into the seats. in at least some arguably reasonable sense, anything less is just inviting the hypothetical evildoers to outsmart those who make (and enforce!) the lists of banned items, which is an inherently losing proposition on the TSA’s side of the equation. no silly list will ever prove smarter than thinking human beings are.

    the fallacy lies in thinking lists of banned items can make us safer, and/or that there are no better, smarter, cheaper ways to work towards safety than that. real security work uses the strengths of humans to its advantage, instead of reducing security personnel to checkers of boxes on pre-compiled lists. “ban this, ban that, ban ban ban” is a knee-jerk prejudice, not an intelligently considered security measure.

  24. #24 Matthew Joseph Harrington
    November 20, 2008

    I’ve said it elsewhere:

    The behavior of the TSA makes perfect sense if you assume they’re all in the pay of AmTrak. :)

  25. #25 Comrade PhysioProf
    November 20, 2008

    The people who design and institute these systems haven’t thought them through. Actually, that’s much too charitable. They are incompetent nincompoops who have no idea what they are doing.

    Actually, what they are are bureaucrats who probably know that what they are doing is useless, but also know that if they admit that, most of them will lose their jobs. This is because the entire premise of “screening” for terrorists is bankrupt for the reasons you stated, and then way to protect planes from terrorism is by simple things like hardening cockpit doors.

  26. #26 Jonathon Singleton
    November 20, 2008

    Frankly, irrespective of neo-nazi hetero/closet AmericaanOz male bullshit, the next time I’m on a plane — fuck em all, I (((WILL))) have my triclosan toothpaste…

  27. #27 M. Randolph Kruger
    November 20, 2008

    Didnt say it had to blow up to be dangerous Constance. But then again you probably werent aware of what happens when you mix amines with alcohol. An ounce is plenty… Common sense? Shit that went out the window when the first embassy went to the ground in Africa. Me, I would have done a lot more than a cruise missile attack with conventional warheads into Afghanistan. The bright flash, done deliberately at night…just to make a point. The only problem is now that they dont fear the repercussions. Paper tiger. Thats okay and I do understand your positions. We used to call it Greenpeace’d in the military. We are in Afghanistan and Iraq for the simple reason that we did NOT defend our country or our borders during the last 20 years. Popping an airburst over Afghanistan would have made our resolve VERY clear. Now we are more worried about their rights than ours.

    Ever been to Tel Aviv Constance?.. Try flying on El AL sometime.

    And to boot, to buy fertilizer now in commercial grade you have to have a license. But, you probably didnt know that either.

    Look, you guys are all locked into this cant happen again thought. The fact that it did means it can happen again. We have just been lucky is all.

    Jonny…. Use your toothpaste. Lets hope the other guy doesnt have a cleverly disguised tube of it on your plane and decide to brush HIS and YOUR teeth.

    No Nomen, you dont get it at all. The fact is that if they want us, they can do us at just about any time they want. Maybe not by explosives on a plane, but maybe something worse. They are desperate to hit us again and they are having trouble getting money, hidey-holes and are losing key personnel at every turn. Best way to convert and get money is to hit us again.

    But now they got rights and just like every supposed criminal they get a lawyer. I believe more that it is a coordinated attack and supplied by various people in the world…Starting with our friend in Venezuela who has training camps for them.

    But you decide. Are they terrorists/spies or are they just criminals?

    Out of uniform personnel are by definition of the Geneva Convention…terrorists or spies. You can shoot, torture or generally just beat the fuck out of anyone of them. Except in the US where we are Greenpeace’d.

    Might piss you off but current events say you are wrong. Bumbling idiot bureaucrats have been around since we invented civilization. Tell you what, its an extraordinary expense for those people to be there. Lets just cut it back to the Wackenhut/Guardsmark people who let them through last time… You can expound your rights at anytime after that.

    But lets put it all into perspective. You want a normal world in one that isnt. Get used to it and the abuses of power from both parties in this country. You will have no right to complain about a bit of this above except that it was inadequate when it happens again.

    IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN……

  28. #28 Nomen Nescio
    November 20, 2008

    Common sense? Shit that went out the window when the first embassy went to the ground in Africa.

    see, that’s an excellent demonstration of how we Americans keep getting this shit wrong. being hurt is NOT a good reason to abandon sense and careful thinking. going all batshit-Rambo and lashing out randomly at whatever’s most convenient or least able to fight back is not a good way to respond to your opponent getting in a strike or two at you; indeed, it’s wasteful, disgraceful, counterproductive, and profoundly childish.

    as for the rest of what you appear to have meant as a response to my points — well, it wasn’t. it seemed more like something you might have written after failing to take some pill you really should have taken, to be honest.

  29. #29 M. Randolph Kruger
    November 21, 2008

    Nomen,

    Do you ever make a comment without making a personal attack on someone? If not why dont you come and visit me on my personal email and we can get some things straightened out. You are typical lib. Attack whatever you disagree with and assert illegality about or for. You seem to be saying we are insane or something and need to be on medication. Funny once… but repeatedly means you just like to be on the other side of whatever argument is made and that you troll it up.

    I remind you that just under half of the US disagreed with the election results and your position. Here is a news flash. Your new President isnt going to go and get rid of the TSA any more than my outgoing one would.

    I am watching a country in decline and quite frankly its going to make this world a much more dangerous place. Feel free to disagree but do it with the respect that you would give your brother because we both do have to live here. If the US loses its grip because the silly libs think that dependence on foreign oil and trying to save the rest of the world is a good idea then fine. Lets see where we are in five years. I know that I am not better off than I was 30 years ago and that was under three different presidents. Globalization hasnt worked and when we get into a hard economic time its not supposed to clean our clocks like it has…So all bets are off and only he who holds the sword will be the one standing at the end. That is basic military strategy. Something I am sure you know nothing about.

    Feel free to attack the message friend. Dont attack the people personally.

    So, leave off with the personal attacks.

  30. #30 Jonathon Singleton
    November 21, 2008

    Yes Randy, as much as I’m more politically alligned with Nomen, I was saddened and a bit irritated by his “pill” comment — the ol’ “you’re crazy” thang which I know so well given the neo-nazi crap which religious fundamentalist Australian government employees have thrown at me (like grenades) this last decade vis a vis my insight into the impending H5N1 pandemic.

    I must point out something… I attended a Catholic school when living in Ireland as a kid. I remember having to ask the nuns and priests for permission to go to the head — which, on reflection, was strangely infantalizing… Not altogether different from the “personal rights” issue of a government employee dictating what type of toothpastes I use in the bathroom of an airplane:*)

  31. #31 Nomen Nescio
    November 21, 2008

    Do you ever make a comment without making a personal attack on someone?

    plenty of times. i mostly pick on your person because you don’t give me much in the way of arguments and reasoning i might pick on instead.

    that said, i try not to use hyperbole very often. the description of your response as being half-crazed ravings was, if anything, a charitable rendering of my honest opinion; you gave me no real argument to engage with, and your style and form gave me no reason to believe you’d listen or try to engage in return. on the contrary, you seemed over the top and out of control, ranting aimlessly. why exactly should i not point and laugh at such antics?

    (incidentally, that’s been a common thread with your last several responses, including this most recent one. “country in decline”? yeah, welcome to the Bush administration; deal with it, the rest of us have had eight years of experience now. no reason to go all incoherent on us, that.)

    and, mr. singleton: for all i make personal attacks on MRK, i notice you don’t seem to complain about his personal attacks on me. you’ll forgive me if i find that odd, from someone who claims to otherwise agree with my substantive points. it’s not that i much care about being repeatedly called stupid and clueless — i may be, but i’ll let my words speak for themselves on that — but surely that’s no less out of line than me calling him insane.

  32. #32 David Adair
    November 21, 2008

    I must point out something… I attended a Catholic school when living in Ireland as a kid. I remember having to ask the nuns and priests for permission to go to the head — which, on reflection, was strangely infantalizing…

    I am unaware of a school were students are allowed to get up and wander the halls at will. Although these days nothing would surprise me.

    In any case it has nothing what so ever to do with the discussion at hand.

  33. #33 Jonathon Singleton
    November 21, 2008

    David, I was musing and free-associating toward an analogy of how I — and many others — perceive the last sociopolitical decade in AmericanOz… Australia federally elected the Oz version of Bush, John Howard, in 1996 — four years before Bush socially engineered United States government into theocratic fiefdoms. Basically, I’m saying how odd it is that people (adults) have allowed themselves to be infantalized by government employees acting like a non-thinking hierarchical collection of lemmings, horribly out-theatricalizing one another for approval from the “spiritual leader” ie. George W Bush and John W Howard.

    Nomen, PTSD aint “insanity”! I have a touch of PTSD and so does Randy…

  34. #34 Nomen Nescio
    November 21, 2008

    i was not aware of anyone here having PTSD. you have my sympathies for it; however, would you claim that disorder affects one’s capacities for making rational, reasoned arguments on electronic fora like this one? is it actually relevant to the current discussion and the positions we each of us have been taking in it? i ask in sincerity, because i don’t and can’t claim to know just what effects PTSD has on a person. if it is relevant, you’ll have my apologies as well as my sympathy.

  35. #35 Jimmy
    November 21, 2008

    “amount of damage that a single incident caused to the economy was huge”

    If we are comparing costs to the economy as incentive to remove civil rights we now have far greater incentive caused by a nefarious network of economists and economic statisticians working at Commercial, Investment and Central Banks worldwide as well as the Government leaders who nurtured them. These ‘economic terrorists’ by virtue of intricate and complex financial instruments and self-serving accounting rules have created the worst credit collapse in possibly two centuries. This collapse has already resulted in the bankruptcy of several nations and quite possibly of the US.

    As with the former response, where oil companies and Governments collaborated with despotic nations to harbour extreme religious sects and then turned a blind eye to stopping the source of the scourge that brought terrorism to the world, bankers and political leaders will again not be held accountable. Rather the ‘people’ will be scapegoated by a more ruthless removal of rights.

    Tired chestnuts by neo-conservatives who go on about how only Government knows best how to govern the people continue to turn a blind eye to the Declaration of Independance which certifies that the people, burdened by despotic leaders, are best suited to determine their own destiny.

  36. #36 M. Randolph Kruger
    November 21, 2008

    No Jonny, I dont have PTSD. What I have is a bad itch that I cant scratch and if I did there would be a body count.

    How you been old friend? Any more problems with government down there with the homophobe alliance? FYI I swear that I think I saw a comment you made being put into the Federal Register as I was looking for something else last week. It was a page search I was conducting and I just saw “Jonathon Singleton” for a microsecond flash as I popped the next button. You been commenting to our government again?

    Anyway, Jonny I dont have PTSD. I have seen some real shit in my day and the armchairs really bug me. They think that this stuff isnt necessary and when you tell them they are wrong and give reasons for it they simply say you are insane and you need medications. Typical lefty answer. Of course we are to ignore all of the denigration of people here and its sunk to an all time low as of late. Personal respect here is about non existent. I try not to participate in that part of it. I bailed before the election because it was a left wing warm candle light and mutual masturbation session.

    E.g. Hey, I know you are gay. I think its abomination according to my upbringing and just about every religion on this planet. But I dont treat you any differently than anyone else. I dont try to convert you, I dont sit back and say its wrong either except as a descriptive above. You get the respect that you deserve as a resident of the marble. Besides I think you are funny as shit sometimes. Other times you get on a ramble and I cant figure out what you are saying. But we all have that problem in communication…sometimes.

    But, you definitely in light of what happened at the hands of the cops might have PTSD. At least you recognize it. They sometimes accuse me here of being a sociopath. Sure, but only if I got cranking. I am just an old teddy bear thats packing a sawed off shotgun, 200 rounds in the backpack, has a fall back position thats better defended and if the lefties want my weapons and religion… I suggest they try to take them.

    As for the TSA, the above is necessary and everyone knows it including Revere. The chance if they didnt do it of something happening are huge. The approach is multi layered, defense in depth. Its expensive, its a pain in the ass and I dont like it either. But I am sure we all would like it less if another plane or two were jacked and flown someplace. You guys are probably not aware that a whole 727 is missing. Yup, jacked in Africa a year ago. Its believed to be in Iran and it could be used as a tactical or strategic bomber. It could also be loaded up with explosives or nuclear waste and flown under the radar to just about any country in the middle east. Wonder what Revere would and will say if or when its used?

    Then there are the other countries in the world. They all have something like the TSA now…I guess that escapes all of the readers and Revere too?

  37. #37 Nomen Nescio
    November 21, 2008

    Then there are the other countries in the world. They all have something like the TSA now…

    if we’re judging the wisdom of an idea by the number of foreign countries who implement it, when can i have my socialized health care?

    (hint: politicians are politicians, everywhere. the fact that something is politically expedient everywhere does not make it necessary, useful, or wise, anywhere. and why is a self-described socialist like me having to explain that to a hidebound conservative, anyway?)

  38. #38 Paul
    November 21, 2008

    I’m a little gun-shy from my last encounter with you folks, but would like to state how often I’ve agreed with Mr. Kruger’s positions. I’ve assumed from his past positions that he’s a fellow conservative, and if I’m wrong in my presumption, I mean no insult, Sir. But, it galls me to see you so outnumbered all the time, though something tells me your a warrior, and that doesn’t phase you a bit.

    Nomen, aside from your ad hominem attacks on Mr. Kruger, what you say about his not engaging your responses with coherent responses and support thereof, has no basis. There’s a difference between not agreeing with someone’s opinions vs. simply not recognizing nor comprehending them. He made very valid and pointed responses to your non-confrontational approach to barbarians at the gate.

    I am very disillusioned with Bush and his crew, for reasons opposite any you imply. When he first came out gang-busters after 9/11 (what you refer to as “bat-shit Rambo blindly lashing out”) he sure got the bad guys’ attention. What he did was scare the shit out of the Middle Eastern terrorist supporters (who openly celebrated in the streets over our 9/11 hit – do you remember that seen?!!). He was spot-on naming the “Axis of Evil:” have you any doubts about Iran, Iraq and N. Korea being appropriately grouped and named as such now? At the time it may have seemed a somewhat random grouping, but subequently their connections with one another have been widely reported. What do think induced Libya to come clean on its nuclear weapons program – he thought Bush was about to pull a Reaganesque 1986 bombing reprise on him – talk about PTSD!

    No, I’m disillusioned with Bush because he pulled a Viet Nam skedaddle on our brave troops…turned them once again into cannon fodder. Lawyers telling our guys (and gals) when and were they could “lawfully” apply their lethal force – what a perverse hoot. He turned out to be a jerk – no communication with the Nation, a little to “compassionate” for a war president, if indeed he believed his own claims about our being at war. Just like Nam – you’re either in a war or your not. If you’re in, kill and destroy anything (bat-shit Rambo style all the way) that opposes you or looks like it poses a threat. An army’s function is not to build countries and regimes, they do what they’re trained to do – kill enemies and break things up. If you’re not in a war, get your people the Hell out of there!

    And if you’re at war, and we are (for your information), then the whole country is in it along with its defense forces. You use everything you can to defend the home front. Sorry if the techniques we’ve currently come up with are not as discriminating as laboratory techniques. But use anything you can think of, even if it does inconvenience the home folks – you put your shoes on and take them off everyday, so do it one more time during the day on the chance it might thwart some bastard’s destructive plans, and save your own ass and those of your fellow passengers! War ain’t pretty and it ain’t convenient. So get over it, and lose the ACLU while you’re at it.

    And yes, this time I did post a screed – T.S.!
    Paul

  39. #39 M. Randolph Kruger
    November 21, 2008

    Nomen. You can have your socialist healthcare when you move to Canada or the UK. OR, if you like the sunny climates…Cuba.

    Healthcare is not a right and it never was. You still have to pay the witchdoctor even in Africa.

  40. #40 revere
    November 21, 2008

    Randy: If you don’t like the word “Right” that’s you choice. From now on let’s just use the word “entitlement.” Then we won’t have to argue about a word. It’s not about a word.

  41. #41 Nomen Nescio
    November 21, 2008

    y’know, points for trying, but merely reiterating “i’m right, you’re wrong, bush is right about everything except when he isn’t nearly right enough” doesn’t make an argument.

    and, sorry to have to spell this out, but socialized healthcare (sensible and rational as that would be) was only an example of why one of MRK’s lines of reasoning was obviously fallacious. that was not something i was putting forth as a measure to improve national security. even though it would do that, too.

    (e.g., socialized healthcare would improve resiliency against bioweapons threats. and by improving resiliency against non-weaponized pandemics, it would simultaneously reduce the window for genuine terrorists to launch attacks of opportunity during the chaos of a pandemic.)

  42. #42 Michael Z. Williamson
    November 24, 2008

    Kruger: Blowing a window out of an airliner will do nothing substantive except create a breeze. Blowing several windows out will do little more. Removing the entire top, as happened to that plane in HI, only affects a few people not strapped in. To bring down an airliner, one must cause structural damage.

    Military out of uniform, with ID, in a non-War zone, are absolutely legit and cannot be considered “spies.” Even IN war zones, depending on mission and orders, location and duty, and proper ID and documentation, they still may not be spies.

    You might want to review a few of your other statements for accuracy, too.

    I’ve described in print how 200 dedicated people could destroy 1/5 the world’s population (Shameless plug). It doesn’t mean I go looking for terrorist bombs in my sandals, toothpaste or Zagnut bar. Consider loosening the Paranoia Collar, it’s cutting off O2.

    Good day.

  43. #43 Bill
    November 24, 2008

    I am constantly amazed by the rules set up by the TSA for “objects” brought onto the jets. I have to pack my nail clippers on my checked baggage, plus my old “P-38″ army can opener since they are listed as “weapons.” And yet, I can carry some pens and pencils on my person. There are five places on the human head and neck that a pen will kill you without having to strike very hard. There are many more places if you can strike hard, or want to take them down without killing them.

    Should you forget and leave your clippers, etc., in your pocket, under the rules you are allowed to place them in your checked baggage, up until they are placed on the baggage mover that takes them to the jet. You have to be escorted by a TSA employee. My experience was that the screeners denied this and tried to do an invasive search when I asked to speak to a supervisor. The supervisor did the escort and then escorted me thru security so that I would not be harassed. The supervisor told me that if I went alone I would be harassed by the screeners in retribution. But profiling is not allowed.

  44. #44 Nomen Nescio
    November 24, 2008

    by now the suspense is finally getting to me; what, exactly, is a Zagnut bar? google says they’re made by Hershey’s, so how come i’ve never seen one for sale in my state? i’m only two state lines away from that company’s home town, after all.

  45. #45 M. Randolph Kruger
    November 25, 2008

    Nomen, its because they dont sell them to libs where there are religion and guns. Zagnuts and libs… Results in explosive decompressions.

    Michael-I believe that if you check the alumnus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University you will find my name there along with the two degrees that go with it. I also can tell you that as a former controller and USAF Combat Control Team member that you aint got a clue about what happens in an explosive decompression. The effects are widely documented and well, you just cant convince people of what would happen. Getting sucked out? Maybe. Killed? Very likely as an explosion in any area other than directly around a window is going to cause structural damage. That damage would be increased by the sudden surge of pressure outward. It most of the time will make a very large hole. In addition you can look here if you have any questions. Note the reinforcement on the window around a B29. Thats molded as one piece now and set into a frame nowadays. Its a big window they are trying to put the guy through. Tri-laminated bullet resistant polymer plastic now. But that aluminum at the floor level in the pressure vessel if popped will come apart like a two dollar watch.

    http://gadgetopia.com/post/2606

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHGBQINW0B0

    Then we can go to the Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge… I am sure you have a copy.

    “Decompression is defined as the inability of the airplane’s pressurization system to maintain its designed pressure differential. This can be caused by a malfunction in the pressurization system or structural damage to the airplane. Physiologically, decompression’s fall into two categories; they are:

    Explosive Decompression – Explosive decompression is defined as a change in cabin pressure faster than the lungs can decompress; therefore, it is possible that lung damage may occur. Normally, the time required to release air from the lungs without restrictions, such as masks, is 0.2 seconds. Most authorities consider any decompression that occurs in less than 0.5 seconds as explosive and potentially dangerous.

    Rapid Decompression – Rapid decompression is defined as a change in cabin pressure where the lungs can decompress faster than the cabin; therefore, there is no likelihood of lung damage. During an explosive decompression, there may be noise, and for a split second, one may feel dazed. The cabin air will fill with fog, dust, or flying debris. Fog occurs due to the rapid drop in temperature and the change of
    relative humidity. Normally, the ears clear automatically. Air will rush from the mouth and nose due to the escape of air from the lungs, and may be noticed by some individuals.

    The primary danger of decompression is hypoxia. Unless proper utilization of oxygen equipment is accomplished quickly, unconsciousness may occur in a very short time. The period of useful consciousness is considerably shortened when a person is subjected to a rapid decompression. This is due to the rapid reduction of pressure on the body—oxygen in the lungs is exhaled rapidly. This in effect reduces the partial pressure of oxygen in the blood and therefore reduces the pilot’s effective performance time by
    one-third to one-fourth its normal time. For this reason, the oxygen mask should be worn when flying at very high altitudes (35,000 feet or higher). It is recommended that the crew members select the 100 percent oxygen setting on the oxygen regulator at high altitude if the airplane is
    equipped with a demand or pressure demand oxygen system.

    Another hazard is being tossed or blown out of the airplane if near an opening. For this reason, individuals near openings should wear safety harnesses or seat belts at all times when the airplane is pressurized and they are seated.

    Another potential hazard during high altitude decompression is the possibility of evolved gas decompression sicknesses. Exposure to wind blasts and extremely cold temperatures are other hazards one might have to face.

    Rapid descent from altitude is necessary if these problems are to be minimized. Automatic visual and aural warning systems are included in the equipment of all pressurized airplanes.

    But if you dont agree then fine. Get rid of the TSA and all of the other requirements. Conduct that experiment instead. Then when the planes go down you can say the government did it to start a war.

    Entitlements? Gee Revere, even you cant find the words entitlement in the constitution or bill of rights. Nor can you find health or healthcare. It aint there. So I guess its not a right under the US Constitution or some lefty would have had us in the middle of it by now.

  46. #46 Nomen Nescio
    November 25, 2008

    I also can tell you that as a former controller and USAF Combat Control Team member that you aint got a clue about what happens in an explosive decompression.

    you do realize Michael Williamson is a serving air force member, don’t you? and that we pretty much all of us saw the news footage of that airliner that limped into Hawaii with a great big gaping hole torn in its top? that was explosive decompression, yet what killed people there was the wind pulling them bodily out of the plane, not the lower pressure.

    (in fact, explosive decompression all the way to low-orbit vacuum most likely wouldn’t kill you. asphyxiation would, of course, but not instantly.)

  47. #47 M. Randolph Kruger
    November 25, 2008

    Nomen, I dont care whether he is or not. If we want to go into an aviation bio stack up we can go onto a nearly 35 year history and it racks up into aircraft maintenance and structural engineering at Fedex, working for and with the FAA, owning and running an aircraft charter and ground handling service which is in business today. Pilot and now checked out in the B727 and an ATP rating. I can keep going Nomen.

    The point is to this is that you cant just sit back and say that the TSA is loaded with idiots. It is. But so is every business and when you screw up as a rule in your job you get fired. You screw up at the TSA and someone is going to likely die.

    I really dont know what Revere has against these people. They do interdict all sorts of stuff. So much in fact that it has to be routinely dumped. People still try to bring guns onto planes if you hadnt noticed. We know they tried to blow up BA’s airplanes into the US. The UK equivalent is even better at it than we are and its a make work program to a large degree here. I mean hell look at most of them in the airport. I feel all better and that may be what Revere is alluding to and that is the quality of the people. Its all about standards.

    They also think a lot more of themselves than they are. Many were hired initially at job fairs and found to have criminal records. So we give them a job and slowly weed them out as they have been in the last three years. But the alternative is that we have the army in the airport terminals. Not a group that works and plays well with others. It also creates the possibility of total “police state” control of our lives. Just as the Obama Nation suggests in their new 10 division National Police Force.

    I maybe dont understand what your point is Nomen. If its that the TSA is ineffective, they are not. They piss a lot of people off? They do. They inconvenience people? Yep. You seen any aircraft hijacked and used as bombs lately? Nope.

    BTW the T-top conversion of the Aloha Airways B737 was due to a failure to complete a Boeing mandatory service bulletin. It related to the cold lamination process in which a glue was used in the first assembly. It was found to be reactive with moisture and the area from frame 7 to about 15 were delaminated. Service bulletins were not complied with (not mandatory) and definitive delamination was found on all inspected then a mandatory service bulletin was not complied with, and Boeing was going to request an Airworthiness Directive when the top blew off. Too late. Kind of interesting since the accident was preventable.

  48. #48 Nomen Nescio
    November 25, 2008

    If its that the TSA is ineffective, they are not

    demonstrably, they are. they’ve prevented nothing worth preventing, and they’ve done it at enormous cost. meanwhile, better crafted security measures would not have cost any more and would have been very likely to do more good — or at very least do less outright harm.

    (look into “carnival booth” for how passenger screening hurts security. it leaks information, is the short explanation. it also humiliates, frustrates, annoys and degrades everybody who has to pass through it — pissing off the very people you’re trying to keep safe is bad strategy.)

    the TSA amounts to a (steadily less) limited police state, in selected parts of selected airports, and nothing more. they are not anywhere near to a comprehensive defense of the air travel system, which makes them largely pointless in itself. it certainly makes the ridiculous and overblown extremes they go to where their authority runs counterproductive and wasteful.

    a better designed air travel safety system would use human intelligence better. it would rely far less on mindless enforcement of silly checklists — better yet, it wouldn’t use that technique at all — and far more on watching people’s behavior. El Al famously uses this to good effect; a good number of their security systems should be copied wholesale, IMO.

    of course, the biggest thing El Al does right is get intelligent people as screeners and give them discretion, as well as responsibility; accountability, as well as authority. what we’re doing is giving unaccountable tin-pot tyrannical authority to people who aren’t trusted to figure out what’s what without detailed written instructions for how to do it; that’s a recipe for failure.

    the TSA would only make sense if we were to cynically assume they aren’t supposed to make us safer at all — rather, that they’re meant to acclimatize us to arbitrary police state tactics. in that, they have been a smashing success. if that was what you meant by them having not been ineffective, i would agree.

    (the last time i flew, i had to give up a plastic Bic lighter for “safety”. i could keep my inch-and-a-half wide leather belt with the heavy buckle, as well as the aluminum-tube flashlight slightly longer than my hand is wide; nobody batted an eye at those. being as i am a reasonably healthy male not yet in my middle age, guess which ones i could have done more harm with? now, what is that “security measure” supposed to be for? does it actually accomplish its intended purpose? what does it accomplish, and at what cost?)

    security is always a trade-off, and must be based on careful cost-benefit analyses. one of the backdraws of that is that a lot of measures that seem to be “doing something”, turn out in such analyses not to be doing much, or at least not to be worth their cost. this also means heavily politicized security is unlikely to be much good.

    moreover, security never operates in a vacuum; there are constraints on it (you’ve got to allow people to keep their clothes on while flying, for instance, so it wouldn’t be reasonable to confiscate their belts, no matter how many might remember how to use them as weapons) and it also creates effects that change its own parameters in complex feedback systems. this is why good security is such a hard thing to achieve, and non-obvious to build. just doing the obvious, “common sense” things that might seem to work won’t cut it; you’re trying to defend against intelligent attackers, after all.

    good security is such that even a well known weakness still won’t collapse it entirely; good security degrades gracefully, even when attacked by someone who knows all about it. to learn about good security, quit idolizing the TSA and start reading Bruce Schneier’s blog.

  49. #49 M.Randolph Kruger
    November 30, 2008

    NN-Anonymous. Good security is layered. TSA is one of them. And no, I dont like them at all. Its like a cop giving out speeding tickets. But those cops do catch a lot of other stuff too.