The Closet Moderate: November 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Keep Your Government Hands Off My Medicare Testicles

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a latex glove gently palpitating a pair of human testicles – forever.
I think the greatest indictment of this program is that the federal government now employs a cadre of people whose full-time job is to grope the genitals of their fellow citizens. That fact amounts to another example of liberals allowing conservatives to have it both ways. These invasive search procedures are a validation of the sort of security kabuki--instituted by Republicans--that's made air travel a nightmare. Beyond that, the institution of these rules under President Obama allows conservatives to gesture the guys who get to know the mean bean machine a little too well as a talking point when attacking, say, social security; they can be a straw man for government incompetence generally. Finally, the fact that this program disproportionately affects members of the chattering class means we're sure to hear a lot about it--Arianna Huffington, Drapes and Carpet Edition. (If that made it onto the Huffington Post as a slideshow, it'd say something important about the world we live in.)

For all that, I urge everyone to undergo the alternate pat down rather than proceed through the scanners. By opting into the groping, you're saying that a government determined to erode privacy ought to have the balls* to do so overtly: jackbooted thugs, not poindexters using national security letters to access my phone records. Also, you get to share an intimate moment with another American, rather than joining the local art installation, "Gnarliest Dicks," in the break room. Under the best conditions, you'll be able to make eye-contact with this fine, five-fingered fellow and whisper, huskily, "you can't take it with you." Plus, if you've every wanted to sexually harass someone, this is the moment to do so. She is, in point of fact, asking for it. In that context, remarks like, "nice cans" are a sort of friendly hello, not an attempt to break professional ethics. It's also the time to postulate the existence of testicular superpowers: "if it would make this go faster, I could have lefty slither down an inch an expand for ya'."

You're both entering a new, uncharted realm of human contact. It's your job to set the course, manufacture obstacles and strange new life for them to encounter. You have become the GM of their trip to hairy hills and squish valley, don't let TSR play second fiddle to the TSA.

*You see what I did there?


Monday, November 15, 2010

Whose nutz? Deez nutz! An ode to TSA.

This bloggard looks on in glee as the Transportation Security Agency faces a backlash over their growing use of millimeter wave and x-ray backscatter imaging machines. As our readers all know, the machines waylay airline passengers as they try to enter the "secure" area of an airport, forcing them to empty their pockets of every receipt, coin, and piece of lint in their possession while low-dose irradiation creates a detailed image of their fat folds and wrinkles.

Compared to the magnetometers previously used, the new technology takes longer but could potentially detect receipts, coins, and lint that passengers previously snuck onto planes. Would these machines prevent a would-be bomber from bringing underwear bombs on board? Perhaps, but are there would-be underwear bombers waiting for their opportunity? Explosive printer cartridges are way easier, after all. And would they stop a would-be bomber from bringing a suppository bomb on board? No. Nor would they stop a whole slew of other potential attack vectors that could be used.

More to the point, who cares!!? Bombs, guns, knives, or snakes on planes are just not a serious threat. As Patrick Smith points out in Salon, terrorists have targeted aviation lots and lots of times, but it's hard. Building bombs, finding and training bombers, and getting to the airport is the hard part, and most people just can't pull it off. Even when they do succeed, we're way more likely to die in a car crash enroute to the airport than from a bombing onboard, or any sort of plane crash for that matter. We're also more likely to be struck by lightning. Lightning people. From the sky!

Part of me hopes that the media attention prompts policy makers to chill. That part is vastly overwhelmed by the part that thinks no national politician alive would dare restore sanity to security for fear of being blamed for the next attack. So in the end, I'll continue to glower at screening agents who probably hate their jobs just slightly less than I hate their jobs.

I also have a plan. It's MacGuyver-esque in its elegance, I think. It involves scotch tape. Specifically, I want to tape a message to my undershirt. It will look something like this:

And if that doesn't work, there are other things to look forward to. I was treated to a demonstration a few years back of a facial "micro-expression" recognition system. The engineers told me it looked for "facial leakages" to detect hostile intent. I give it credit. I stared into the camera and the computer chomped away at the image. Eventually the computer had seen my soul, and a message popped up on the monitor that exactly matched my mood... disgust.