Archive for January 23rd, 2007|Daily archive page

Do-Nothing Democrats

Senator Ted (Intertubes) Stevens is pissed!

This time doesn’t have to do with people just dumping e-mails on his e-truck or whatever. This is personal; this is family; this is about his wife Cat. According to the AP

At a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee, [Kip] Hawley[, head of the Transportation Security Administration] ran into inquiries from lawmakers with family members or friends who had encountered problems at airport checkpoints.

Among them was Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who complained that his wife, Catherine, was being identified as “Cat” Stevens and frequently stopped due to confusion with the former name of the folk singer now known as Yusuf Islam, whose name is on the list. In 2004 he was denied entry into the U.S., but officials declined to explain why.

Hawley explained that Secure Flight, the new passenger screening program, which he hopes will be running in 2008, would make such problems “a thing of the past.”

Ted isn’t the only person to have problems with the no-fly list. He’s not even the only Ted with the problem. He’s not even the only Senator named Ted who has gotten ruffled feathers over the N-FL. Back in 2004, the Washington Post very calmly (probably more so than Ted Kennedy) explained that,

U.S. Sen. Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy said yesterday that he was stopped and questioned at airports on the East Coast five times in March because his name appeared on the government’s secret “no-fly” list.

Federal air security officials said the initial error that led to scrutiny of the Massachusetts Democrat should not have happened even though they recognize that the no-fly list is imperfect. But privately they acknowledged being embarrassed that it took the senator and his staff more than three weeks to get his name removed.

Of course Republicans are nothing if not paradigms in organisation, fixes and problem solving. Thus this issue was quickly corrected and rectified. At least until someone at the TSA started reading about papal plots; confusing Congress with Parliament; 2005 with 1605; and Guy Fawkes with jihadist, terrorist NUNS!

Sister Glenn Anne McPhee is a busy woman.

As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ secretary for education, Sister McPhee oversees Catholic education in the United States, from nursery school through post-graduate. Her job includes working with the Department of Education, speaking frequently at conferences and scrutinizing religious textbooks to clear them with the teachings of the church.

For nine months in 2003 and 2004, Sister McPhee also took on the task of clearing her name from the government’s no-fly list, an endeavor that proved fruitless until she called on a higher power, the White House.

Ok, that was then. Any administrative organisation able to quickly correct and rectify personal problems like Heck-of-a-Job Brownie and under the dictatorship tight reigned control of Michael Chertoff would, more then 5 years after 9/11, finally have everything under control. Unless of course you keep someone like Donna Bucella, head of the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center since it’s inception in 2003, on the job. She was interviewed by 60 Minutes last October,

Asked if she is confident that the list is complete and accurate, Bucella says, “It’s like painting a bridge. Once you finish one end, you gotta come back. So we endeavor to get the list as current and accurate and thorough as possible.”

She says there are people checking the names to make they belong on the list.

“We got a look at the No Fly List from March. And included on that list were 14 of the 19 September 11th hijackers. How do you explain that?” Kroft asks.

“Well, just because a person has died doesn’t necessarily mean that their identity has died. People sometime carry the identities of people who have died,” she says.

“What you are saying is that you have no information that this person is alive and poses a threat. It’s just a name in the database,” Kroft asks.

“In order fort the name to get in the data base there has to be information that they are a known suspected terrorist,” Bucella says.

“So you are saying it’s just a coincidence that there are 14 names in the computer that match the names of 9/11 terrorists. I mean, the people that are on the list have the same date of births as the people that were killed in the – that died in – the suicide bombers from 9/11. I mean, how do you account for that?” Kroft asks.

Bucella asked how recent this watch list was. When told it was from March, she said, “For some reason the agency might not necessarily want to have taken the name off the list. I can’t explain that.”

According to the article, other people on the list included Saddam Hussein, Nabih Berri, Lebanon’s parliamentary speaker, and Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia. One has to wonder if Saddam has been crossed out yet.

Yes, the TSA will be cutting the no-fly list (N-FL) in half. From an estimated 350,000 to a mere 175,000 people (or down to 25,000, or 22,000 – who the f*ck knows; it’s secret!) People, who are so scary, you don’t want them sitting next to you. Of course some of these no-flyables might be preferable to George Carlin’s proverbial drunk guy with the Grateful Dead T-Shirt and the Fuck-You hat. Or the people who think up these wonderful ideas like the N-FL. Or even Ted Stevens for that matter. But perhaps Family Guy showed the biggest threat to American skies.

So, maybe the Do-Nothing Democrats (almost a month in office and what have they accomplished?) will finally get up off their asses and do something about the N-FL, the threat of singing terrorists… and Ted Stevens.

(For your daily news on the N-FL and other security related issues you might pop by Schneier on Security who does a really good blog on personal, data and general security. He was my source for the 60-Minutes article and the video.)

Hat Tip: Wonkette)

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I’m Getting A Feeling

Phil Plait, Bad Astronomer, after getting back from The Amazing Meeting 5 dropped his telescope and picked up the story about the Sylvia Brown misstep.

For living in the US and with no access to – um – media or those living outside the US, Sylvia Brown is a self proclaimed psychic. (Of course with no access to media, how are you reading this? Are you psychic?) Where in Germany one can find psychics in the backs of cheap magazines and on late night television. Psychics in the US are of a different calibre. It is not unusual for psychics to get airtime on both daytime talk-shows and primetime specials.

But what’s special about this case?

James Randi has the rundown. The parents of the recently recovered kidnap victim Shawn Hornbeck consulted both Brown and psychic James Van Praagh while searching for their lost son. Brown claimed that the child (11 at the time) was dead and had been aducted by a “dark-skinned man, he wasn’t black – more like Hispanic.” She also claimed he wore dreadlocks and drove a car with fins. She also described where the body would be found. Needless to say, the person arrested for the abduction and captivity of Shawn, who is “still with us,” was white. dreadlock-less and not connected to any of the other bullshit she produced on that day. Another good source for the story is skeptico.

There is a nice wrap up done by Anderson Cooper. Phil presents the video and I thought I would just including it here for my click-lazy, non-sceptical reader(s).

What I find really interesting are the clips showing Larry King interviewing Sylvia Brown. One has to wonder if there will be a King / Cooper spat at CNN. I would however rather watch Cooper over King. (And Jon Stewart over both).

As best I can tell, Larry King is the ultimate talk show verbal slut. He’ll have almost anyone on his show who can create audible verbalizations, it isn’t terribly important whether those verbalizations have any basis in reality or fact. Larry King will simply claim to be presenting the opinions, offering people with something to say a forum to say it.

Of course I don’t know whether Larry King would deem it appropriate to interview Holocaust denial experts like Willis Carto, Mark Weber or white supremacist April Gaede (it would be interesting television) or whether he would ask National Vanguard leader Kevin Alfred Strom to appear. But he has no problem repeatedly inviting people like Sylvia Brown or James Van Praagh. The latter is entertainment, the former tasteless. Mr. King I beg to disagree; and I suspect Pam and Craig Akers would agree with me.

I have to applaud Anderson Cooper and of course James Randi and Phil Plait for continually bringing this kind of thing to light. I will also do my linkage good dead for the day and point readers and Google to Robert Lancaster’s page about all things Brown-ian. He has the myths, the misses and the videos. If you do nothing else, add this to one of your posts today. Maybe someday, we can get StopSylviaBrown above Sylvia Brown in Google searches.

Stop Sylvia Brown

Of course I’m a little psychic myself and I’m getting a feeling right now. A feeling that Cooper and King might not really like each other. And one of them has something to do with dreadlocks, and fins, near water, in the dark…