Is it a Bad Omen for Obamacare Website that Hackers compromised President Obama’s Twitter Account?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 2nd, 2013

Week in Review

It’s a brave new world out there.  An electronic world of convenience and pleasure.  On demand 24/7.  Wherever we are.  But this convenience comes at a price (see President Obama’s Twitter account compromised after Syrian group hacks into link-shortener by Adam Edelman posted 10/28/2013 on the Daily News).

President Obama’s Twitter account was briefly compromised Monday after a shady online group hacked into the link-shortening service used by Obama’s social media team.

Well that doesn’t bode well for the security of the Obamacare website or the massive database the government will be keeping our personal data in. 

According to CNBC, the group, which has claimed responsibility in the past for other big cyber-attacks, didn’t actually hack into the President’s account.

Rather, it breached the link-shortener tool, which send out truncated links to Internet URLs, used by his social media team.

The tool, a custom third-party link-shortener, was used by the President’s Organizing for Action group and is not affiliated with Twitter.

Oh, so it wasn’t a government account that got hacked.  That’s good.  Wait a minute, if they can hack into a tool millions use successfully and with ease then surely they can hack into a system so poorly designed that it doesn’t even work.  A system that tells its users they have no expectations of privacy.  Did they include that disclaimer because the system is so poorly designed that it is a hacker’s paradise?  Or is it because they are going to share that data with all of their political cronies to help them in the next election?  Whichever it is the people won’t like it.

Makes you pine for the good old days when your phone was on the kitchen wall.  And you read your news in a newspaper.  And actually enjoyed opening your mail.  Those were the days.  All the way back to the ancient 1980s.  When the only worry you had in the world was the Soviet Union starting a thermonuclear war.  Which seems at times less frightening than what can happen today.  For the odds of thermonuclear war were so great that it didn’t weigh on your mind every day.  Unlike the odds that the government will collect our most private information in such an unsecured fashion that hackers will steal it.  And use it to financially ruin us.

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FT168: “Gasoline and guns empower women, not birth control and abortion.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 3rd, 2013

Fundamental Truth

Gasoline let’s a Woman work a Job she Likes that Pays Well instead of Settling for a Nearby Job she Hates

In the old days men worked and women stayed home and raised the kids.  And on the weekend the man got the lawnmower out and cut the lawn.  At first he muscled a push-mower across the lawn.  Then he got a gasoline-powered mower.  Even our senior citizens can keep cutting their lawn in their advanced years.  By getting a self-propelled gasoline-powered mower.  We may not think a lot about it but cutting our lawn is a big part of home ownership.  And today’s lawnmowers allow anyone do this task themselves.  Including the fairer sex.

A widow living on her own in the home she shared with her late husband can cut her lawn with a self-propelled gasoline-lawnmower.  Allowing her to stay in her home without paying someone else to cut her lawn.  Who may try to take advantage of a senior citizen.  It will also allow a younger woman to own a home without having to pay some stranger to get familiar with her and her home as they cut her lawn.  While having a power mower may keep some overly interested neighbors from coming over to help ‘the little lady’ as she struggles behind a push-mower.  And a loud gasoline-powered lawnmower lets her get the job done quickly.  Without inviting unwanted conversation over the noise.  Or something else unwanted.

Yes, gasoline has empowered women like nothing else.  It gives her the freedom to work where she wants to work.  Because a gasoline-powered car allows her to work a job she likes and pays well.  Instead of settling for a job within walking distance from her home.  Or a short walk from some public transportation line.  A gasoline-powered car empowers the single mother.  She can use it to take her kids to school in the morning.  Then drive to her job.  After work she can drive to pick her kids up from school.  Or daycare.  And then home.  Things she couldn’t do if she had to rely on public transportation.

Gasoline let’s a Woman get Home Safely no matter the Weather or Time of Day without Molestation

Yes, gasoline is a blessing for women.  It gives them freedom.  And independence.  As well as security and safety.  With a car she doesn’t have to wait at night at a desolate bus stop.  Or enter a deserted subway platform.  And while driving her car no one can ‘feel her up’ like they can in a crowded subway car.  Or worse.  It’s gasoline that protects women.  An electric car won’t.  A gasoline car with a full tank will let her sit in the biggest traffic jam on her way home at night in a blizzard.  Gasoline will keep that engine running.  And that engine will heat her car, defrost her windows and keep her headlights on so she can see.  But if she was in an electric car she would be shutting off the heat, defrosters and headlights as she begins to worry whether she has enough charge to make it home.

On the weekend she can run to the grocery store.  And fill up her gasoline tank in broad daylight.  When it’s safe.  Which will let her commute about an hour and a half roundtrip each day during her workweek.  But if she finds she’s running low on fuel she can stop at a brightly lit gas station.  Swipe her credit card.  Fill her tank.  And be back on her way home in 10-15 minutes.  You can’t do that with an electric car.  Only gasoline will do this for you.  If an electric car runs out of charge it could strand a young lady in a bad neighborhood.  Where she’ll have to call and wait for a tow home.  Alone.  And vulnerable.

Gasoline will get a woman safely home better than anything else.  On the weekend she can get the gasoline-powered mower out and cut her lawn quickly.  Leaving her time for other yard work or gardening she may want to do.  Something else gasoline let’s her do.  She can hop in her car and drive to however many nurseries she wants to find the plants she wants to grow.  And she can load up potting soil and mulch in her car.  And drive it home.  Without relying on a man helping her.  She can have and do whatever she wants to do because of gasoline.  For gasoline empowers a woman like nothing else.

A Handgun with a High-Capacity Magazine will allow a Woman to Stop a Man—or Group of Men—from Harming Her

But a woman living on her own can attract some unwanted attention.  Some may be interested in her charms.  Some may be interested in what she has in her home.  Or both.  Thinking a woman living alone is an easy mark they may break in at night.  Now it would be difficult for a woman to fight off a couple of intruders.  Or even one strong man.  For women are the fairer sex.  They are not as large as men.  Giving men the clear advantage in any physical confrontation.  Especially if a woman is asleep in her bed.  Vulnerable.  And if men are in her home she probably won’t be able to run into the kitchen to get a knife for protection.  But even if she hid one in her bedroom she would have to put herself in great danger to use it.  Because to stab someone you have to be close to them.

But there is another way.  She can protect herself against an intruder.  Even if they have a knife.  All she needs is a handgun.  And a high-capacity magazine.  So even if three men tried to assault her in her bedroom she could keep shooting until they cannot attack her anymore.  And she can do this from a distance.  She can kneel on the far side of her bed.  Across from her bedroom door.  And start shooting them as they rush through the bedroom door.  With the distance they have to close to get to her and a high-capacity magazine she will be able to shoot them down before they can reach her.  In fact, having a handgun with a high-capacity magazine gives her the advantage.  Even if she is far out-muscled by her assailants she can shoot as if she is as large and as threatening as they are.  Only a handgun with a high-capacity magazine can do this.  Not a knife.  Or a revolver.  Or a shotgun.  A revolver will give her six shots.  But if she’s scared her first six shots could miss.  And then she will have to reload bullets into the cylinder in the dark.  Difficult even for the best law enforcement officers.  And a double barrel shotgun will have only two shots.  If she unloads both barrels into bad guy #1 then she will have to reload to protect herself from bad guys #2 and #3.  In the dark.  Plus, a shotgun has a long barrel and is not easy to use in tight areas.  Finally, if a woman is being stalked or a prison released someone who assaulted her she can get a permit to carry a concealed weapon to protect herself.  A handgun with a high-capacity clip will fit into any purse.  A shotgun won’t.

Give a woman gasoline and a handgun with a high-capacity magazine and she is free to live however she wants to.  They will empower her.  Leveling the balance of power in her life.  Allowing her to do whatever a man can do.  And to protect herself from any man.  Or group of men.  While the left says birth control and abortion empower a woman they won’t let her do much but have a lot of sex.  They won’t help her get to her job and safely back home.  They won’t take her kids to school.  They won’t get her to the grocery store.  They won’t cut her lawn.  And they sure won’t protect her from an assailant.  No, if the left truly wants to empower women they should stop attacking gasoline and the internal combustion engine.  And they should stop trying to make it harder for law-abiding people to own a gun.  For a handgun with a high-capacity magazine will allow a woman to stop a man—or group of men—from harming her.  No matter how strong and powerful they are.  Something birth control and abortion just can’t do.

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Engineering Tradeoffs, Security System, Fire Alarm System and HVAC System

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 13th, 2013

Technology 101

A Security System basically locks Doors while a Fire Alarm System unlocks Doors

Engineering is basically a study of compromise.  Of tradeoffs.  For solving one problem often creates another problem.  For example, boiling water creates steam.  And the pressure of steam is so strong that it can do useful work for us.  However, the pressure of steam is so strong that it can also blow up boilers.  Which was common in the early days of steam.  So we install pressure relief valves on boilers.  To safely dump excessive steam pressure.  So they don’t explode violently.

We want steam pressure to do work for us.  And the higher pressure the steam is the more work it can do for us.  But the higher the pressure the greater the chance for a catastrophic explosion.  So the engineering of steam systems is a tradeoff.  We design them to produce the maximum steam pressure that won’t blow up any part of the system.  Trading additional useful work for safety.

Then there are systems that come together with opposing design criteria.  Such as security and fire alarm systems.  A security system basically locks doors in a building.  Preventing the free passage of unauthorized people.  While a fire alarm system basically unlocks doors.  To allow the free passage of everyone.  Authorized and unauthorized.  For example, few people can get into the maternity area of a hospital.  Even the elevator won’t stop on that floor if you don’t have a security card to swipe in the elevator.  But if there is a fire in the building, all the secured doors will release to allow everyone to get out of the building.

If the Duct Smoke Detector detects Smoke it will Break the Safety Circuit and Shut Down the HVAC Unit

Interfacing the fire alarm system to HVAC systems require additional compromises.  The primary design criteria of a heating, ventilating and air conditioning unit (basically a big box with a supply fan and a return fan with filters, heating/cooling coils and air dampers to blend in a varying amount of outside air) is to move air.  To prevent the dangerous buildup of carbon dioxide from our exhaled breath.  They also cool buildings in the cooling season.  And help to heat the building in the heating season.  In addition to the floor-mounted perimeter hot-water heating system.  Located under most exterior windows.

Keeping the air moving helps to keep the air safe to breathe.  Which allows us to work safely within enclosed buildings.  But this moving air can be a problem if there is a fire in the building.  For in a fire it’s smoke inhalation that kills most people.  So if there is a fire someplace in a building you don’t want the HVAC system to blow that smoke throughout the building.  Especially in areas where there is no fire.  Which is why we interface the HVAC system to the fire alarm system.  When there is no fire alarm condition the HVAC system is free to operate to meet the HVAC design criteria.  Keeping dangerous levels of carbon dioxide from building up.  If there is a fire alarm condition the fire alarm system takes control of the HVAC system to meet the fire alarm system design criteria.  Preventing smoke from spreading throughout the building.  In exchange for a less dangerous buildup of carbon dioxide.  For in a fire alarm condition people will be leaving the building.  So they will be out of the building before any buildup of carbon dioxide can harm them.

Air moves through ductwork.  There is a supply-air duct system.  And a return-air duct system (or a ceiling plenum where all the airspace above the ceiling is the return-air pathway back to an HVAC unit).  They both terminate to an HVAC unit.  The return-air fan pulls air from the building and the supply-air fan blows air back into the building.  Located shortly downstream of an HVAC unit in the supply-air duct is a duct smoke detector.  We wire this into the safety circuit of the HVAC unit.  Which is basically a lot of switches wired in series.  They all have to close for the HVAC unit to start.  Such as the freeze-stat on the heating coil.  Which prevents the unit from blowing freezing air onto a cold heating coil to prevent the water from freezing and breaking the coil.  Also in the safety circuit are end-switches installed on the air dampers.  Which close when the unit isn’t running to prevent heated air from venting out and cold air from migrating in.  Before the fans start these damper have to open.  And once they fully open switches close in the safety circuit clearing these safeties.  Also in this safety circuit is the duct smoke detector.  When the duct smoke detector is powered it closes a set of contacts.  The duct smoke detector safety runs through these contacts.  When closed it clears this safety.  If there is smoke in this duct (or if the duct smoke detector loses power) this set of contacts opens.  Breaking the safety circuit.  And shuts down the HVAC unit.

Providing Smoke-Free Routes out of a Building gives People the best Chance of Surviving a Fire

HVAC units may feed more than one zone in a building.  And if the ductwork serving these units pass through a wall (i.e., a fire/smoke barrier) there will be a fire damper in the ductwork at this location.  Either one with a fusible link that melts in a fire.  And when it melts energy stored in a spring releases and closes the damper.  Preventing smoke from crossing this barrier.  Often times they will install a combination fire/smoke damper.  That will have both a fusible link that will melt in a fire.  And a duct smoke detector and a motor.  When powered up the motor winds up a spring and holds open the damper.  These will also have end-switches on them.  And we will also wire these into an HVAC unit’s safety circuit.  Either hard-wired.  Or by computer programming.  If the detector detects smoke or loses power the contacts open the holding circuit and the energy in the spring will close the damper.  As well as shutting down the HVAC unit connected to that duct.

The reason why we tie these into the safety circuit is that if the HVAC units start up without opening these dampers first dangerous pressures will build up in the ductwork.  And blow them apart.  Which is why there are end switches on the air dampers at the unit.  For if the unit starts with those closed they will blow the dampers apart.  All of a building’s HVAC units and dampers are controlled by a building management system (BMS).  Which makes all the components in the building work harmoniously together.  Varying the speeds of the fans, the positions of the dampers, the position of the valves on the piping serving the heating/cooling coils, etc.  Unless there is a fire alarm condition.  Then the fire alarm system takes control.  And sends a fire alarm signal to the BMS system.  Which, upon receiving this, executes an orderly shutdown of all systems.  So when the fire alarm condition clears it can begin an orderly and safe startup.  Often staggering the starting of the HVAC units to prevent dimming the lights from the power surge if they all started at the same time.

These systems can be even more complex in large buildings.  Stairwells may have a stairwell pressurization system.  If there is a fire alarm condition a dedicated fan will start up and blow air into the stairwell.  And shut down any HVAC units serving areas outside these stairwells.  So there will be a higher pressure inside the stairwell than outside the stairwell.  So air, and smoke, blow out of and not into the stairwell.  Making them safe for people to use to leave a building during a fire.  An even more complex fire alarm system will take over control of the fans and dampers of the HVAC system to ventilate smoke out of building.  Smoke evacuation systems are very complex.  And costly.  But they can save a lot of lives.  As most people die from smoke inhalation in a fire.  So having the ability to provide smoke-free routes out of a building or venting it out of a building gives people the best chance of surviving a fire.  Which we can do when we make some engineering compromises.  And make some tradeoffs between the security, HVAC and the fire alarm designs.

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Two Armed Police Officers prevent Possible Massacre in Alabama Hospital

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 15th, 2012

Week in Review

If you ever spent time in a U.S. hospital you probably noticed a few things about security.  As you enter the emergency department the first person you pass is typically an armed police officer.  Either a hospital cop.  Or a city cop.  You may see a patient handcuffed to a gurney with a police officer walking behind it (bad guys sometimes get hurt and have to go to the hospital). And without a security card to swipe to unlock doors there are few places you can go.  Even an elevator won’t stop on the baby floor without a security card swipe.  As people tend to steal babies.  So hospitals tend to be little fortresses who take their security seriously.  Which is one of the safest places a person can be (see Gunman wounds 3 at Alabama hospital posted 12/16/2012 on Sky News).

Authorities in Alabama say a gunman has opened fire in a hospital, wounding an officer and two employees before being fatally shot by police…

Williams says police were called because a man with a gun was walking through St Vincent’s Hospital on Saturday morning.

When he was confronted by officers, he started shooting and wounded one of them. That’s when the second officer shot and killed the man.

Don’t know what this gunman planned on doing but whatever it was he didn’t have a long time to try it.  Swift action by armed cops subdued him before he could kill doctors, nurses and patients.  If that was his plan.

This is why mass murderers target shopping malls, movie theaters, colleges, high schools and elementary schools.  They don’t often walk into police stations, army bases or hospitals.  They prefer soft targets.  Where no one can hurt them.  If some place has people who can shoot back chances are that they are not going to go there.

The shooting at Newtown is a tragedy.  We don’t know much yet.  Other than he had time to shoot 26 people.  Because he was safe to do so.  If it was a day where the police were at the school doing a presentation for the students things would have been different.  Because a cop could have drawn his or her weapon the moment they saw a gun.  And fired back after the first pull of his trigger.  Like the police did in Alabama.

Bo Dietl is a former New York City Police Department detective and now runs a security company.  Since the shooting some schools have contacted him inquiring about an armed, retired police officer to work security in their school.  To have an armed police presence in their schools.  Like that hospital in Alabama.  Because it works.

It would be wrong to politicize this tragedy to push forward new gun control legislation.  For bad people will always get their guns.  And one thing that bad people like are soft targets.  When Florida passed legislation to allow Floridians to carry concealed weapons crimes on tourists increased.  Because bad people like soft targets.  Not those that can shoot back.  So after getting shot by a Floridian or two they started going after unarmed people.  Tourists.

Some will, and are, pointing to gun violence in the U.S. and comparing it to countries with strict gun control countries.  But there are more differences between these countries than gun control laws.  These other countries don’t have movies and television programs with graphic gun violence desensitizing their youth.  Or rap/hip-hop music glorifying gun violence.  Or as many people playing graphic video games filled with guns and murder.  This kind of violence didn’t happen when kids played cowboys and Indians or army back in the Fifties.  And we’ve had guns since the founding of this country.  And before.  There’s more to it than the guns.  You just can’t address the guns if you don’t address the gun violence in our pop culture.  And the lack of civility and societal decay.  If you remove the guns but do nothing to reverse the lack of civility and societal decay bad people will find other ways to hurt soft targets.  Timothy McVeigh didn’t use a gun and he killed 168 people and injured over 800.  The greatest terrorist attack on American soil, 9/11, began when men hijacked 4 commercial airliners with box cutters.  Since then we have armed air marshals on board our airplanes.  And even some pilots began carrying guns.

Guns don’t kill people.  Societal decay does.  It wasn’t that long ago when our parents slept at night without locking their doors.  No one would do that today.  Because society has changed.  People lack empathy.  They’re uncivil.  We do drugs more than we ever have.  More children are born to single women than ever before.  Married parents both have to work to get by these days.  It’s a different world for children today.  And some are growing up differently because of it.  They’re spending less time as innocent children.  And getting into trouble earlier.  Running with gangs.  Mimicking what they see in the movies, on TV and in those video games.  Perhaps having trouble separating what’s real.  And what is just a game.

Hug your kids.  For family is everything.  And say a prayer for those in Newtown.

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The UN says there can be no Peace or Security unless we Advance their Global Warming Agenda

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 3rd, 2011

Week in Review

Yet further evidence that we need to defund the UN (see UN ‘expert’: climate change could lead to war: Attempting to begin the United Nations climate change conference by Joel Gehrke posted 11/28/2011 on The Washington Examiner).

Attempting to begin the United Nations climate change conference with a stirring call to action, one UN official blasted economic markets principles for asphyxiating “time-honored values of humanity” and suggested that failure to act on global warming fears could damage international human rights and destabilize “peace and security.”

Describing the climate change conference as a “make or break moment for humanity,” UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and International Solidarity Virginia Dandan said in a statement that failure to produce anti-greenhouse gas emissions policies “would impact on the three pillars of the UN – namely, peace and security, development and human rights, and pin the world down to ground zero.”

Dandan claimed a morally superior position to economic critics of global warming policy. “There is great need for a radical mindset change in order to bring back to the negotiating table the time-honoured values of humanity that have been forgotten after decades of market and profit-driven orientation,” she said.

Her logic might assume that some economic benefit would result from lowering greenhouse gas emissions, however, as Dandan called for conference attendees “to face the challenges posed by climate change such as . . . the continuing and widening poverty gap, and the series of food, energy, economic and financial global crises.”

If this doesn’t show the true mission of the UN I don’t know what will.  The things she is wringing her hands over – the continuing and widening poverty gap, and the series of food, energy, economic and financial global crises – aren’t happening in free market economies.  They’re happening only in nations the UN is trying to fix with a world government solution.  Not a free market capitalism solution.

The U.S. is doing so well that those living in poverty and ‘struggling’ to put food on their tables also lead the world in obesity.  That doesn’t happen in third world countries where they mock and eschew capitalism.  People starve to death in those countries.  Unless they get food aid from the United States.

Capitalism works.  Socialism doesn’t.  We know this because it’s always the capitalist countries feeding the socialist countries.  North Korea, Cuba, and the former Soviet Union didn’t ship food to the U.S.  The U.S. shipped food to North Korea, Cuba, and the former Soviet Union.  And yet the UN wants to act like a world government.  To emulate the Soviet Union.  To manage the world.  When they have nothing to show but failures.  While America’s poor suffer from obesity.  Because capitalism makes so much food available and inexpensive that the poorest of people eat too much.

You want to prevent war from breaking out?  Feed the world.  By encouraging the system that has successfully fed the world more than any other.  Capitalism.  And forget all of this man-made global warming nonsense.  For the emails of Climategate are all there to read.

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The TSA’s Obsession with our Genitals Borders on the Ridiculous and Threatens our Security

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 20th, 2010

You don’t Touch a Stripper’s Genitals because it’s Wrong and Could Spread Infectious Disease

When I was a younger man I visited a strip bar or two.  And one thing about young men when they consume vast amounts of alcohol, they get handsy.  They’ll do things that can get the men with the thick necks over to you and bounce you out before you know what’s happening.

Back then (and probably now), you looked but didn’t touch.  Mostly.  Sometimes you could touch.  But there were limits.  Butt cheeks.  Some boob.  But no naughty bits.  Well, maybe some naughty bits.  Some strippers would let you bury your face in their breasts while you did the motorboat.  But you kept your mouth shut.  Because some other guy might have just been where you are now.  And you don’t want to swap spit with strange men. 

Some rules were a little more lax than others.  Depending how slow the night was and how drunk your stripper was.  But one thing you didn’t do was make genital contact.  If the guys with the thick necks caught you doing that, they’d ask you to leave.  And I don’t mean in a polite way.

Why?  Strippers could spread some nasty diseases that way.  One stripper with Chlamydia could infect a lot of men who could in turn infect a lot of women (wives, girlfriends, one-night stands, etc.).  That’s why bouncers will throw you out.  Because genital contact in a strip bar is like a flashing neon sign that says, “Shut us Down.”

Don’t Put that Gloved Hand Down my Pants.  I don’t Know Where it’s Been.

So genital contact with strangers is not a clean thing to do.  Infectious disease-wise.  Even strip bars that have nude or semi-nude women dancing in dark rooms with loud music systems and smoke affects will police any genital contact with extreme prejudice.  Because strip bars are responsible.  Unlike the TSA (see Woman says her Lambert security screening was sexual assault posted 11/18/2010 on KMOV St. Louis).

Moroney explains “Her gloved hands touched my breasts…went between them. Then she went into the top of my slacks, inserted her hands between my underwear and my skin… then put her hands up on outside of slacks, and patted my genitals.”

The TSA wears gloves.  Because they don’t want to catch anything when they run their fingers through our naughty bits.  But the question that begs to be asked is this: are they changing those gloves between searches?  I mean, how do we know where that gloved hand has been?  Looks like catching a cold on an airplane may be the least of our health worries when flying now.

Water Boarding an Enemy Combatant is Wrong but Hitting a Lady in the Vagina is Okay?

You don’t dare touch a stripper’s genitals.   Or do this (see Enhanced pat down leaves Grand Rapids airline passenger in tears posted 11/18/2010 on WZZM 13 Grand Rapids).

“The female officer ran her hand up the inside of my leg to my groin and she did it so hard and so rough she lifted me off my heels,” she says. “I think I yelped. I was in pain for about an hour afterwards. It just felt excessive and unnecessary.”

You do this in a strip bar and not only will they bounce you, but the guys with thick necks may take you out back.  For a good ‘talking to’.  It’s one thing for a drunken guy to cop a feel, but it’s another to hit a lady in the vagina.  That just ain’t right.    At least the 3 terrorists we water boarded were caught trying to kill Americans.

Profiling isn’t Racism if it’s Anecdotal

A lot of people are asking if we’re any safer from all of this genital groping.  Well, no, we’re not.  But we’re being politically correct.  And our government apparently feels that is more important than our security.  But the people are ready for some politically incorrect profiling (i.e., stereotyping).  Hey, if we can laugh about it in the movies, we ought to be able to handle it in real life when our lives are at stake (see Don’t touch my junk by Charles Krauthammer posted 11/19/2010 on The Washington Post).

In “Up in the Air,” that ironic take on the cramped freneticism of airport life, George Clooney explains why he always follows Asians in the security line:

“They pack light, travel efficiently, and they got a thing for slip-on shoes, God love ’em.”

“That’s racist!”

“I’m like my mother. I stereotype. It’s faster.”

If you haven’t seen the movie, Clooney’s character clocks more air miles than most people do in a lifetime.  The point being that observational experience may NOT be stereotyping.  It may just be anecdotal.

That riff is a crowd-pleaser because everyone knows that the entire apparatus of the security line is a national homage to political correctness. Nowhere do more people meekly acquiesce to more useless inconvenience and needless indignity for less purpose. Wizened seniors strain to untie their shoes; beltless salesmen struggle comically to hold up their pants; 3-year-olds scream while being searched insanely for explosives – when everyone, everyone, knows that none of these people is a threat to anyone.

The ultimate idiocy is the full-body screening of the pilot. The pilot doesn’t need a bomb or box cutter to bring down a plane. All he has to do is drive it into the water, like the EgyptAir pilot who crashed his plane off Nantucket while intoning “I rely on God,” killing all on board.

If you want to stop terrorists, we should try to stop people as well as bombs.  But not all people.  That would be grossly inefficient and divert resources.  We need to observe the behavior of those who are similar to those who have actually carried out terrorist attacks. 

We should treat them like people returning from Canada into the United States.  Talk to them.  Observe their body language when they answer.  Listen to the sound of their voice.  Are they breathing rapidly?  Sweating?  Avoiding direct eye contact?

We need to ask them questions.  Start general and get specific.  Is the person you’re visiting married?  What’s his wife’s name?  What color is her hair?  Their children names and ages?  Where do they shop for groceries? 

We need to ask questions based on their previous answers.  If they say they’re visiting friends from college and are going to the ‘big game’, ask some questions about the team that’s playing.  Or the college.  Or the city.  If this person is up to no good, a good questioning will out him.

During WWII, we caught a lot of Germans wearing American uniforms.  They spoke clean English.  No hint of an accent.  But they didn’t know American slang.   Or who won the World Series.

The TSA and their Advanced Body-Imaging Systems are no Match for a Determined Suicide Terrorist

With the tightening of Security, the bad guys are resorting to more and more suicide attacks.  This requires less sophisticated bombs and timers/detonators.  And a suicide bomber can hide a bomb where no one or nothing can find it.  Up the rectum (see Convergence: The Challenge of Aviation Security by Scott Stewart posted 9/16/2009 on Stratfor).

One of the most recent suicide attacks was the Aug. 28 attempt by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to assassinate Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. In that attack, a suicide operative smuggled an assembled IED containing approximately one pound of high explosives from Yemen to Saudi Arabia concealed in his rectum. While in a meeting with Mohammed, the bomber placed a telephone call and the device hidden inside him detonated.

In an environment where militant operational planning has shifted toward concealed IED components, this concept of smuggling components such as explosive mixtures inside of an operative poses a daunting challenge to security personnel — especially if the components are non-metallic. It is one thing to find a quantity of C-4 explosives hidden inside a laptop that is sent through an X-ray machine; it is quite another to find that same piece of C-4 hidden inside someone’s body. Even advanced body-imaging systems like the newer backscatter and millimeter wave systems being used to screen travelers for weapons are not capable of picking up explosives hidden inside a person’s body. Depending on the explosive compounds used and the care taken in handling them, this method of concealment can also present serious challenges to explosive residue detectors and canine explosive detection teams. Of course, this vulnerability has always existed, but it is now highlighted by the new tactical reality. Agencies charged with airline security are going to be forced to address it just as they were previously forced to address shoe bombs and liquid explosives.

Advanced body-imaging systems such as backscatter and millimeter wave systems?  Why, these are the imaging systems that produce the nude images that have infuriated the flying public.  The very machines that they say are imperative to our safety.  But what good are they if they won’t detect a bomb in a rectum?  For that matter, what good is an aggressive pat down that won’t detect a bomb in a rectum?  You know what would probably give this guy away, though?  His behavior (see the same Stratfor link).

A successful attack requires operatives not only to be dedicated enough to initiate a suicide device without getting cold feet; they must also possess the nerve to calmly proceed through airport security checkpoints without alerting officers that they are up to something sinister. This set of tradecraft skills is referred to as demeanor, and while remaining calm under pressure and behaving normal may sound simple in theory, practicing good demeanor under the extreme pressure of a suicide operation is very difficult. Demeanor has proven to be the Achilles’ heel of several terror plots, and it is not something that militant groups have spent a great deal of time teaching their operatives. Because of this, it is frequently easier to spot demeanor mistakes than it is to find well-hidden explosives.

In the end, it is impossible to keep all contraband off aircraft. Even in prison systems, where there is a far lower volume of people to screen and searches are far more invasive, corrections officials have not been able to prevent contraband from being smuggled into the system. Narcotics, cell phones and weapons do make their way through prison screening points. Like the prison example, efforts to smuggle contraband aboard aircraft can be aided by placing people inside the airline or airport staff or via bribery. These techniques are frequently used to smuggle narcotics on board aircraft.

Obviously, efforts to improve technical methods to locate IED components must not be abandoned, but the existing vulnerabilities in airport screening systems demonstrate that emphasis also needs to be placed on finding the bomber and not merely on finding the bomb. Finding the bomber will require placing a greater reliance on other methods such as checking names, conducting interviews and assigning trained security officers to watch for abnormal behavior and suspicious demeanor. It also means that the often overlooked human elements of airport security, including situational awareness, observation and intuition, need to be emphasized now more than ever.

Profiling will work.  And has worked.  The Israelis use it.  And they should know a thing or two about keeping bombers off of airplanes.  From the ticket purchase, to the security line to the boarding gate, someone should be asking questions and observing.  And only those they flag should we pull aside for enhanced security screening.  And then and only then, should we violate their naughty bits

It’s Better to Offend a Few than Sexually Batter Everyone

Sexually battering our women and children may seem like tough safety precautions.  But it’s humiliating.  Unclean.  And most important of all, ineffective.  It reminds me of a MAD Magazine cartoon I read long ago as a child. 

A banker was explaining their impenetrable vault to a prospective depositor.  It had every possible advanced security feature you could imagine.  Then the prospective depositor asked what the unplugged electrical cord lying on the floor outside the vault was for.  The banker cleared his voice and said meekly that it was the plug for the super-secure vault.  And that someone must have tripped over the cord and pulled it from the outlet.  But to assuage any doubts the customer had, he assured him that they normally secured that plug to the outlet with a piece of scotch tape.

And this is what the TSA has given us.  A super expensive, complex and invasive security program that some guy with a bomb up his pooper can easily defeat.  Instead of studying behavior, the TSA plays with our genitals.  And tries not to offend people who ‘look’ similar to past terrorists.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #15: “Most people would rather hear a pleasant lie than an unpleasant truth.” -Old Pithy.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 25th, 2010

“DO THESE JEANS make my ass look big?”  Men don’t like this question.  And when their wife or girlfriend ask it, they know to tread lightly.  Unless the relationship is on the outs.  In which case they may answer with something like, “No, it’s your fat ass that makes those jeans look big.”

If the man cares for the woman.  If he loves her.  If he ever expects to have sex with her again, he’ll say something nice.  No matter how much more of her there is to love back there.  It’s called a white lie.  Normally, we don’t base our relationships on lies.  But when it comes to the butt, though, lies are good.  They spare hurt feelings.  Should a person’s genes not bless them with a heavenly derriere to display in a tight pair of jeans.

White lies don’t hurt people.  In fact, we use them in order not to hurt people.  Such lies don’t have consequences.  And people may know you are lying.  Even expect you to lie.  It shows you care enough to make someone feel better about something you know they’re sensitive about.  Like her big butt.  Or his performance in bed (“Whew, that was the best five minutes of my life.  Really.”).

WHEN YOUR CHILD IS learning a musical instrument, he may make more noise than music.  But you encourage him.  Or her.  You tell them they’re good.  That they’re getting better every day.  And, yes, you would love for them to play in front of your visiting family.  And when they do, the family applauds and tells them they’re good, too.  Your child is encouraged.  And he or she keeps practicing.  A little white lie and no one gets hurt.

Suppose your daughter wants to sing.  She listens to the reigning pop queens and sings along.  Only thing is, she’s tone deaf.  She doesn’t sing well at all.  In fact, when she does sing, you start looking for a hurt cat because you’re sure no human could make such inhuman noise.  But you don’t want to hurt her feelings.  And you’re sure it’s just a passing phase.  So you tell her how wonderful she sounds.  No one gets hurt.  Nothing can go wrong with that, can it?

Well, suppose her school is having a talent show. Anyone can simply walk up to an open mike and do whatever they want.  And she wants to sing.  In front of her friends.  In front of her classmates.  In front of the 2 kids that always tease her.  Now the issue is a little more complex.  Do you tell her the truth about her singing and hurt her feelings.  Or do you let her sing.  And risk the kids laughing at her.  And teasing her about it afterwards?

BUT IT’S NOT just the white lies we want to hear.  Say your husband is staying later and later at work.  You call to see what time to expect him for dinner but there’s no answer.  When he comes home late you tell him you were worried.  You called and there was no answer.  He apologizes for worrying you and says he was with a client.  You’re relieved.

Or you come home from work and your wife isn’t there.  Concerned, you call her and there’s no answer.  When she comes home she says she was at the gym with a friend and left her cell in her gym bag.  You’re relieved.  Then she goes upstairs to shower.  Funny, you think.  She usually showers at the gym.

Learning about infidelity is not easy.  And it’s painful.  You ignore signs as long as you can.  You believe the lies.  You want to.  You need to.  Then you find an earring in the car that isn’t yours.  Or you bump into your wife’s friend who says she misses her now that she quit going to the gym.  Soon, the evidence forces you to face the awful truth.  And it kills you inside.  Divorce.  The children.  It’s just the beginning of so much bad to come.

SO WE LIKE it when people lie to us.  At times.  For the truth can be disagreeable.  Ugly.  Painful.  And we’d rather not have that pain.  No, we’d rather live life in a sitcom where there is always a good laugh and rarely anything bad ever happens. 

Politicians know this.  They know that most people don’t like the harsh realities of life.  So when they need to get elected, they lie to us.  No one wants to pay more taxes.  So the politicians promise that only the rich will pay any new taxes.  But massive government spending requires massive taxation.  And taxing the rich just can’t pay for it all. 

George Herbert Walker Bush promised no new taxes.  He said, “Read my lips.  No new taxes.”  He raised them.  Didn’t want to.  Said he had to.  To balance the budget.  Because he and Congress didn’t want to cut spending.  Same with Bill Clinton.  He promised there would be no middle class tax increase.  But there was.  He said he tried as hard as he could not to but had to.  Again, the spending thing.  No one wants to cut spending.  It doesn’t help win elections.

But we wanted to believe the lie during the campaign.  They promise us everything and say it won’t cost anything.  That’s what we want to hear.  We don’t want to hear the intricacies of monetary and fiscal policy.  That increased taxation dampens economic activity.  Decreases incentive for risk takers.  So they take fewer risks.  Create fewer jobs.  Which increases unemployment.  But we don’t want to hear this.  We just want the free stuff.  Just promise it.  Tell us it’s free.  And we’ll vote for you.

LITTLE WHITE LIES have little consequence.  We say them because we care about someone.  Other lies, though, do.  Big ones.  If we fall for them.  If we believe in an ever-expanding welfare state, we’ll keep voting ourselves the treasury.  Until we’ve emptied it.  And when there’s no more money, we’ll say, well, it was nice while it lasted.  But all good things must come to an end.  Or we’ll riot.

Or we’ll cut spending elsewhere to fund our insatiable appetite for free stuff.  Maybe we won’t build a new aircraft carrier.  Or we’ll close an overseas Air Force base.  Or we’ll reduce the size of our conventional forces.  Because we’ve been lulled into a false sense of security, we may think a large standing army is not necessary anymore.  But it was that large projection of force that gave us that sense of security.  It scared the bad guys.  Because the ability to project force, and the will to do so, will create consequences if the bad guys do act. 

During the dot.com boom of the 1990s, times were good and we got complacent.  During those good times, though, the bad guys hit Americans in a series of attacks (World Trade Center bombing, Tanzanian Embassy bombing, Kenyan Embassy bombing, Khobar Towers bombing, the USS Cole attack).  We didn’t fight back.  We lied to ourselves.  We didn’t want to believe that America was under attack.  Head in the sand, we wanted to continue to enjoy the good times.  This only emboldened our enemies.  They saw that America didn’t have the will to fight back.  So they upped the ante.  And in 2001, they attacked on 9/11.  And that attack was just too great not to awake a slumbering giant.

WE MAY NOT like the unpleasant things in life.  But they are part of life.  And we have to deal with them.  However unpleasant they are.  They are what they are.  No matter how we try to rationalize them away.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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