Effect Measure

Honey, I shrunk their brains!

We all saw it coming. If you could have a bomb under your balls, why not a bomb in your honey pot?

U.S. officials say a suspicious material found in a passenger’s bag that triggered a security scare at a California airport on Tuesday actually turned out to be bottles of honey.

The scare caused a shutdown at the Meadows Field Airport in the city of Bakersfield and a hazardous material crew and bomb squad were called to the scene. (Voice of America News, h/t Boingboing via Backwards beekeepers)

It gets better:

Two Transportation Security Administration officers were also treated and released from the hospital after being exposed to what were described as “fumes” from the bottles.

Since we’ve been discussing study design here and there have been persistent questions whether TSA screening actually works, maybe it’s time for a randomized controlled trial. We’re already half way there. We have a placebo treatment.

Comments

  1. #1 Curious
    January 7, 2010
  2. #2 revere
    January 7, 2010

    Curioius: Indeed. I TiVo Stewart and Colbert, but it’s a great link for others to see. If you didn’t see Colbert’s skewering of Domino’s Pizza last night take a look on his website. It’s hilarious.

  3. #3 Frank Mirer
    January 7, 2010

    Revealing my culturally inappropriate thoughts, I clicked on this thinking of another meaning for honey pot. Where someone could hide stuff.

  4. #4 revere
    January 7, 2010

    Frank: Why do you think I put it that way. I knew you ere out there.

  5. #5 Art
    January 7, 2010

    Not to put a damper on the outrage, I do enjoy reading a good rant, but honey, or sugar, is a very good fuel in a oxidizer/fuel bomb. Combine potassium chlorate and honey and you have a fairly effective low explosive. Add more of the oxidizer, perhaps an accelerant, and contain the mix in a pressure vessel and your looking at the makings of a substantial bomb.

    Honey is probably on the list of materials to be suspicious of because many of the Arab nations are honey producers and some of the terrorist groups are said to be involved in the trade as a source of funding.

    It is also true that people interested in committing such attacks have trial runs where they pack the materials in a more innocent context and form and try to get them through security. First you try to carry through a couple of bottles of honey. Then, if it goes well enough, or such a supply becomes the butt of ridicule over an overreaction so it becomes normalized, you try carrying some oxidizer and see if anyone reacts.

    Over time you slowly work toward a set of bomb components that one or more people can get on board and assemble into a working device.

  6. #6 revere
    January 7, 2010

    Art: One can conjure all sorts o weapons from common materials. I rather doubt that you can do much with KClO4 and honey. This is a classic jiu jitsu operation by al Qaeda. You use your enemy’s strength as a weapon in your favor. They are trying to bankrupt us and tie us up into knots so that we’ll say, fuck it and leave the Middle East. Which wouldn’t be a bad idea in any event. Their attacks don’t even have to work and they usually don’t. It doesn’t matter.

  7. #7 ginger
    January 7, 2010

    Art, the Bakersfield airport is bang in the middle of the Central Valley, a major agricultural area. Honey is much, much too common there to be treated as a threatening item, even assuming that the TSA agents actually recognized it as honey (which, if the agents were fainting away from the deadly fumes, they didn’t). Meadowsfield Airport has a whopping 17 flights a day, departing and arriving, with an average of 392 departing passengers a day in 2008 (which was a much busier year for them than 2009). Sure, terrorists could get behind security at a major airport by flying in separately from minor airports – but there is much more that could go wrong with that conspiracy than could go right (especially given the on-time rates of the major airlines these days.)

  8. #8 Art
    January 7, 2010

    revere – “I rather doubt that you can do much with KClO4 and honey.”

    Rapid burning, as in the airliner that went down in the everglades, perhaps even just production of large quantities of dense smoke, as seen in one not so recent crash into the Atlantic, can bring down an airliner. It is a rather delicate mechanism.

    I agree that security efforts, most of it security theater, have a greater negative effect than all the hijackings and actual attacks combined. Personally I think that federal and state organizations should get out of the airline security business. Maintain a watch, exclusion, list and keep the airlines informed as to any indications gathered from intelligence efforts. Leave the rest to the airlines. It is their business and it should be their responsibility to show that their flights can, are, safe. This would raise the cost of tickets and might lower the numbers flying but at some point, as the number of flights and, so the costs, drop equilibrium will be reached. People who simply have to fly will pay the price. Flying used to be a luxury reserved for business and the rich. Who says it has to be a middle-class commodity.

    There is little good flowing from the federal government, in effect, subsidizing airlines. The government already covers building and running airports, sets safety standards, maintains air traffic control, and investigates all crashes. But it is the airline owners that carry off the profits. In fact is the contradictory requirements of a system where the government handles all the liabilities and the airlines get guaranteed profits that causes so many problems.

    If the airlines can’t maintain safety at a reasonable cost and can’t make a profit then they deserve to go out of business. If a few airlines fail we might get high-speed rail in this country. Rail is far more efficient in terms of pound/passenger miles.

    If the government is going to attempt to guarantee safety we might as well nationalize the airlines. At least then the liabilities would be offset, in part, by the income.

    Forced to maintain security as an employee of an airline I would start by eliminating all carry-on materials. passengers would strip, be processed by ultrasound to make sure they aren’t hiding anything, change into airline provided coveralls and underwear, and board. For a price you could image your laptop into an airline provided hard drive and laptop so you can work in flight. You would keep the hard drive so there is less worry of data theft. HDs are cheap. Street clothes and other carry-on materials would go into a explosion resistant container, just like luggage is handles presently, and would be given back after you land. Everything else you might want or need would be provided by the airline. If those, or equally harsh, terms weren’t acceptable then you don’t fly. Simple as that.

  9. #9 pft
    January 7, 2010

    Art is a piece of work. Great satire.

    “Maintain a watch, exclusion, list and keep the airlines informed as to any indications gathered from intelligence efforts. Leave the rest to the airlines. It is their business and it should be their responsibility to show that their flights can, are, safe.”

    You mean the same airlines which had no secure locks on the cockpit doors and were well informed by FAA of the increased threat level of an AQ attack before 9/11. The same airlines who hired private security companies based on lowest bid.

    “This would raise the cost of tickets and might lower the numbers flying but at some point, as the number of flights and, so the costs, drop equilibrium will be reached. People who simply have to fly will pay the price.”

    Obviously, you live in a world where competitive forces do not apply, and where shareholders would willingly take a huge cut to their stock value by shrinking the business due to the low risk of a terrorist attack (2 feeble attempts over hundred of millions of flights causing little damage in 9 years).

    “Flying used to be a luxury reserved for business and the rich. Who says it has to be a middle-class commodity.”

    When government decided to stop or reduce subsidies for railroads, I guess you can say they did. In Europe, the governments provide it’s citizens with high speed railway options. The US is huge, as is the US tourist industry which would be hit if folks could not afford travel. Besides, most of the rich and big businesses have their own planes now. They don’t fly commercial.

    “There is little good flowing from the federal government, in effect, subsidizing airlines. The government already covers building and running airports, sets safety standards, maintains air traffic control, and investigates all crashes. But it is the airline owners that carry off the profits. In fact is the contradictory requirements of a system where the government handles all the liabilities and the airlines get guaranteed profits that causes so many problems.”

    That is corporate socialism at work, also called Mussolinis corporatism. Government of the corporation, by the corporation and for the corporation.

    “If the airlines can’t maintain safety at a reasonable cost and can’t make a profit then they deserve to go out of business. If a few airlines fail we might get high-speed rail in this country. Rail is far more efficient in terms of pound/passenger miles.”

    Rail never would have been built without the government subsidies you so hate. When the smaller airlines fail, the market stays the same, and the bigger airlines gobble up market share. Then you have a situation when 3-4 airlines control virtually all the market and engage in price fixing. lower service, etc. Not much different than today actually which might be part of the problem.

    “If the government is going to attempt to guarantee safety we might as well nationalize the airlines. At least then the liabilities would be offset, in part, by the income.”

    Why not, it worked well in the Soviet Union and China. I remember boarding one flight in China in the 80’s and passing by the cockpit saw the pilots drinking a can of beer, Tsingdao of course. I had a non smoking seat and the the guy next to me started smoking. When I complained to the stewardess she said my seat is non-smoking but his is a smoking seat. The flight was secure though with armed PLA passengers in case anyone tried anything stupid. Perhaps we could then replace sterwardesses and security personnel with armed soldiers returning from Iraq.

    “Forced to maintain security as an employee of an airline I would start by eliminating all carry-on materials. passengers would strip, be processed by ultrasound to make sure they aren’t hiding anything, change into airline provided coveralls and underwear, and board. For a price you could image your laptop into an airline provided hard drive and laptop so you can work in flight. You would keep the hard drive so there is less worry of data theft. HDs are cheap. Street clothes and other carry-on materials would go into a explosion resistant container, just like luggage is handles presently, and would be given back after you land. Everything else you might want or need would be provided by the airline. If those, or equally harsh, terms weren’t acceptable then you don’t fly. Simple as that.”

    No carry on baggage is of course a dream for airline profiteers. They might prefer passengers fly nude though, the laundry bill would be a cost they would want to eliminate, not to mention the hassle of retrieving said clothes and redistributing them to disembarking passengers. But regardless, I guess you would be free to seek employment in another industry. Your rich and business travellers, at least those who do not alreay own their own planes, will simply buy their own planes (probably 2nd hand from bankrupt airlines), and no need for security. The so called middle class will just drive more which is less energy efficient than air travel, increasing CO2 emissions, which is food for the trees and keeps winters warm, increased demands for highway infrastructure, more roads, more mileage on cars. Ford and GM will love it.

    People will have more time to drive as the economy grinds to a halt and business accelerate their flight from the US to regions where sanity prevails.

  10. #10 dubiquiabs
    January 8, 2010

    @ Art

    Why stop there? Just think of the contribution these enhanced security measures could make to health care reform. All we need to do is draw conclusions like yours from the Abdullah al-Asiri body bomb method.

    A little training, and airport security personnel will administer low-cost screenings for gynecologic, prostate and GI problems. Pronto – security plus peace. Peace of mind, that is, from early detection of cancers (and “cancers”).

  11. #11 Paula
    January 8, 2010

    Nonono, dubiquiabs and Art, do you not read science fiction? (or for that matter, about “rendering”?) We relieve passengers of all carried items items, bodysearch them, tranq ‘em up, and pop them in secure-pods where they will sleep the journey away. And perhaps beyond, if suspect.

  12. #12 eddie
    January 12, 2010

    Air travel is screwing the planet. A reduction in passengers and flights will help a lot.

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