Linkdump for March 30th from 11:01 to 11:37

An automatically generated list of links that caught my eye between 11:01 and 11:37 on March 30th.

Sometime between , I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

Close the Washington Monument

”Terrorism isn’t a crime against people or property. It’s a crime against our minds, using the death of innocents and destruction of property to make us fearful…. But when we refuse to be terrorized, when we’re indomitable in the face of terror, the terrorists fail — even if their attacks succeed.”

Bruce Schneier nails this.

From Schneier on Security: Close the Washington Monument:

Securing the Washington Monument from terrorism has turned out to be a surprisingly difficult job. The concrete fence around the building protects it from attacking vehicles, but there’s no visually appealing way to house the airport-level security mechanisms the National Park Service has decided are a must for visitors. It is considering several options, but I think we should close the monument entirely. Let it stand, empty and inaccessible, as a monument to our fears.

An empty Washington Monument would serve as a constant reminder to those on Capitol Hill that they are afraid of the terrorists and what they could do. They’re afraid that by speaking honestly about the impossibility of attaining absolute security or the inevitability of terrorism — or that some American ideals are worth maintaining even in the face of adversity — they will be branded as “soft on terror.” And they’re afraid that Americans would vote them out of office if another attack occurred. Perhaps they’re right, but what has happened to leaders who aren’t afraid? What has happened to “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”?

An empty Washington Monument would symbolize our lawmakers’ inability to take that kind of stand — and their inability to truly lead.

[…]

Terrorism isn’t a crime against people or property. It’s a crime against our minds, using the death of innocents and destruction of property to make us fearful. Terrorists use the media to magnify their actions and further spread fear. And when we react out of fear, when we change our policy to make our country less open, the terrorists succeed — even if their attacks fail. But when we refuse to be terrorized, when we’re indomitable in the face of terror, the terrorists fail — even if their attacks succeed.

We can reopen the monument when every foiled or failed terrorist plot causes us to praise our security, instead of redoubling it. When the occasional terrorist attack succeeds, as it inevitably will, we accept it, as we accept the murder rate and automobile-related death rate; and redouble our efforts to remain a free and open society.

I’ve excerpted a fair chunk here (perhaps slightly more than is strictly appropriate), but there’s a good bit more at the source. You really should read the full thing.

Not Really a Surprise

It is no accident that women have been complaining…for nearly 10 years now…. What was different? Suddenly an able-bodied white man is the one who was complaining.

Sad, but very true.

From elusis: (stix cartoon by eyeteeth of Small Pecul:

The thing is that nothing about this is new. Private citizens being arbitrarily singled out for intrusive searches and rough treatment by authority figures because of their appearance, their “attitude,” or just a momentary need for an endorphin rush by a small-minded bureaucrat? Welcome to the lives of people of color, the phenomenon of Driving While Black, the lives of women, of transpeople, of disabled people (oh hai, Canada!).

It is no accident that women have been complaining about being pulled out of line because of their big breasts, having their bodies commented on by TSA officials, and getting inappropriate touching when selected for pat-downs for nearly 10 years now, but just this week it went viral. It is no accident that CAIR identified Islamic head scarves (hijab) as an automatic trigger for extra screenings in January, but just this week it went viral. What was different?

Suddenly an able-bodied white man is the one who was complaining.

(via Bruce Schneier’s excellent roundup of recent TSA stories)

Fly Commando!

I’m almost disappointed I’m not flying soon. I’d wear my kilt. Commando. Grope away, sucker!

TSA Checkpoint A couple days ago, disgusted (as everyone should be) with the TSA’s current policy of sexual abuse at the screening stations (your choice: nude photos or sexual assault), I tweeted this:

After this http://djwudi.com/4fk and similar, I’m almost disappointed I’m not flying soon. I’d wear my kilt. Commando. Grope away, sucker!

It seems I’m not the only one who’s had this idea….

From TSA Opt-Out Day, Now with a Superfantastic New Twist! – Jeffrey Goldberg – National – The Atlantic:

It’s a one-word idea: Kilts. Think about it — if you’re a male, and you want to bollix-up the nonsensical airport security-industrial complex, one way to do so would be to wear a kilt. If nothing else, this will cause TSA employees to throw up their hands in disgust. If you want to go the extra extra mile, I suggest commando-style kilt-wearing. While it is probably illegal to fly without pants, I can’t imagine that it’s illegal to fly without underpants.  I If you are Scottish, or part Scottish, or know someone who is Scottish, or eat Scottish salmon, or enjoy Scotch, or have a vestigial affection for “Braveheart” despite Mel Gibson, you can plausibly claim some sort of multicultural diversity privilege — the term “True Scotsman” refers to soldiers who honor their tradition and heritage by wearing kilts without drawers underneath.

For the record, I always fly wearing a Utilikilt, and as with any time I wear a kilt, unless there’s some situation that demands otherwise, I generally do go commando. Hey, it’s comfortable, and under normal circumstances, there’s little to no likelihood that anyone’s going to be seeing anything they don’t want to. It’s never been a problem — quite the opposite, in fact, I usually just breeze through the metal detectors.

This past summer, though, as I was flying up to Anchorage from Seattle, I was pulled aside after going through the metal detector for a patdown. I was surprised, especially when the TSA screener told be that I was pulled aside specifically because I wore the kilt. My best guess is that because they can’t eyeball the shape of your upper legs as easily as when wearing pants, it’s marginally more likely that I could have something dangerous but non-metallic strapped to my upper/inner thigh. If that was the reasoning (they didn’t say), it does make me wonder if they regularly pull women wearing skirts aside for the extra pat-down, or if they reserve that treatment for men in skirts. Obviously, weirdos like us are far more likely to be dangerous.

The pat-down itself was about what I’d expect of a normal pat-down — thorough enough, with a quick run of the hands up my legs and under the kilt, but not so thorough that the screener knew whether or not I was commando. No fondling was involved, though there was a cursory brush-down of the front of the kilt that jostled things around a bit. A bit surprising, but at the time, I just shrugged it off.

No more of that, though. While I’m not flying anytime soon, if all of this ridiculousness is still going on when I do have to fly somewhere, I’m definitely opting out, and they just better do their jobs. If they’re determined to sexually assault me, then I’m at least going to get my money’s worth!

(via @jackwilliambell‘s retweet of @furf; image via BoingBoing via Oleg Volk)

Drama-Free Facebook

Leave it to the kids to figure out how to make Facebook as safe, secure, and drama-free as possible.

Leave it to the kids to figure out how to make Facebook as safe, secure, and drama-free as possible.

From danah boyd | apophenia » Risk Reduction Strategies on Facebook:

Mikalah uses Facebook but when she goes to log out, she deactivates her Facebook account. She knows that this doesn’t delete the account – that’s the point. She knows that when she logs back in, she’ll be able to reactivate the account and have all of her friend connections back. But when she’s not logged in, no one can post messages on her wall or send her messages privately or browse her content. But when she’s logged in, they can do all of that. And she can delete anything that she doesn’t like. Michael Ducker calls this practice “super-logoff” when he noticed a group of gay male adults doing the exact same thing.

[…]

Shamika doesn’t deactivate her Facebook profile but she does delete every wall message, status update, and Like shortly after it’s posted. She’ll post a status update and leave it there until she’s ready to post the next one or until she’s done with it. Then she’ll delete it from her profile. When she’s done reading a friend’s comment on her page, she’ll delete it. She’ll leave a Like up for a few days for her friends to see and then delete it. When I asked her why she was deleting this content, she looked at me incredulously and told me “too much drama.” Pushing further, she talked about how people were nosy and it was too easy to get into trouble for the things you wrote a while back that you couldn’t even remember posting let alone remember what it was all about. It was better to keep everything clean and in the moment. If it’s relevant now, it belongs on Facebook, but the old stuff is no longer relevant so it doesn’t belong on Facebook.

(via Waxy)

Interesting approaches, and I don’t think I would have thought of either. Well, I might have thought of the second, but I babble enough that it would be far too much trouble to bother with (and besides, the majority of what goes on Facebook also goes to Twitter and my blog, so there wouldn’t be much point).

Adventures in Holiday Weekend Driving

Because it was the front of the pipe that had come loose, the rear of the pipe was still tied to the bed, so the pipe was being pushed forward against the asphalt, throwing up sparks, and it was immediately obvious that it could go swinging to the side at any moment, very likely snapping free of the remaining ties and flying loose into traffic.

As mentioned briefly in the post about my fireworks video, family matters required an unexpected trip south to Vancouver over this past Fourth of July weekend. As we were returning home yesterday, fighting our way northward through last-day-of-a-holiday-weekend traffic, Prairie and I witnessed one of the most frightening near-accidents I’ve ever seen.

We’d left I-5 to take a brief lunch break in Longview, and after filling ourselves with pizza and the car with gas, were getting back on the highway. As we started to merge into traffic, which at this point was heavy but still keeping to the 70 MPH speed limit, a big dump truck towing a flatbed trailer with a huge tank on it passed by on our left, making an incredibly horrendous scraping noise that didn’t sound at all right. As I pulled onto the highway proper, directly behind the truck, I saw what was making the noise.

My best guess is that the tank on the flatbed was an underground septic tank, and the inflow pipe had been strapped to the bed of the trailer on the right side of the tank. At some point on the drive, however, the front of the pipe had jostled loose and bounced off the bed, letting the pipe drag along the road. Because it was the front of the pipe that had come loose, the rear of the pipe was still tied to the bed, so the pipe was being pushed forward against the asphalt, throwing up sparks, and it was immediately obvious that it could go swinging to the side at any moment, very likely snapping free of the remaining ties and flying loose into traffic.

pipe-1.png

“Wow, that doesn’t sound healthy,” said Prairie. As I quickly started changing lanes to get out from directly behind the truck and as far to the left as I could, I asked, “Didn’t you see the pipe?” “What pipe?” I briefly told her what I’d seen, and sure enough, just at that moment, we saw the front of the pipe swing out to the right, barely miss clipping the rear left tire of a small blue SUV as the pipe swung out until the straps that were still hanging on stopped it, leaving it sticking out to the right, still dragging along the road, and still frighteningly close to the tire of the SUV.

pipe-2.png

As soon as the pipe had started to swing wide, I’d started to brake as quickly as I could safely do so, as had a number of other cars who could see what was happening. A few of us had started to honk to warn both the dump truck driver and the driver of the SUV of the impending catastrophe. The dump truck driver didn’t seem to notice anything, but the SUV suddenly sped up and pulled away from the dragging pipe without getting hit. While many of us were slowing down, however, the people behind us couldn’t see what was happening, and just as the pipe started to swing further around to drag behind the trailer, making it even more likely that the straps would finally give and throw it loose, a little car full of teens whipped around our car and sped straight towards the truck.

More braking, more wild honking, and then we saw that car’s brake lights flare up as the driver finally saw what was happening and realized that there was a reason why we’d suddenly slowed down so much. He changed lanes to the left and pulled up beside the truck, and one of the passengers started waving at the truck, trying to get the driver’s attention; at the same time, a big pickup with a lightbar, either from WSDOT or from one of the construction crews scattered along I-5 sped up the right hand side of the road to pull along the other side of the truck, and also tried to get him to pull over.

pipe-3.png

Thankfully, one or both of those two people were successful, and the driver, still apparently clueless as to just why people were hollering at him, finally started to slow down and pull off to the side of the highway. Miracle of miracles, those last straps had managed to hang on, and the pipe had stayed attached to the flatbed trailer, though probably through more sheer luck than anything else. We passed by, and the last I saw of the incident was the truck pulling onto the shoulder right behind the official-looking pickup that had flown up the right side of the highway.

Really, really freaky — there were a few moments when I was sure that the straps were about to break, and I’d have to do my best to dodge a 20-foot length of steel pipe flying along I-5 at 60-some miles per hour in the middle of holiday traffic. Not at all a pleasant mental picture, and I’m very glad it never came to that.

Driving is a Privilege, Not a Right

I had multiple, successive mind-blown moments reading through a story from last March that just popped up on my Facebook feed.

I had multiple, successive mind-blown moments reading through a story from last March that just popped up on my Facebook feed.

First: A woman in Florida, driving to meet her boyfriend, decides she wants to make sure she’s ready for their tryst by touching up her bikini line. So, doing what any normal, reasonable person would do, she has her ex-husband, sitting in the passenger seat, reach over and take the wheel to steer so she can shave her genitals as she drives down the road. In what I’m sure was a totally unexpected result, she ends up rear-ending someone.

Second: The resulting charges include reckless driving, driving with no insurance, leaving the scene of a wreck with injuries, and driving with a revoked license. It turns out that last charge is a result of a conviction the day before of a DUI with a prior and driving with a suspended license. Her license had been suspended for five years, and the car she was driving at the time of the shaving-induced crash was supposed to have been impounded.

Third: The “with a prior” part of the “DUI with a prior” conviction apparently comes from one or more earlier incidents, including failing to stop and remain at a crash involving an injury, a misdemeanor count of driving with a suspended license, and a felony hit-and-run.

But what really got me was this fourth bit, from the end of that last link (the added emphasis is mine):

When she starts driving again, Barnes must have a breathalyzer ignition interlock device installed on any vehicle she drives.

When she starts driving again‽ Hopefully this language is just a holdover from the conviction when her license was suspended for five years. I find it absolutely mindboggling that there would be any way this woman would ever be legally allowed to drive again. This twit has repeatedly shown that she cannot be trusted behind the wheel of a car, why in the world should she ever have the chance to regain a driver’s license?

We as a society are far too lenient when it comes to giving people the legal ability to drive. I’m strongly of the opinion that DUIs should be a single-strike offense: you drive drunk, you lose your license, and that’s it. No suspensions, no slaps on the wrist, no car-mounted breathalyzers. Once someone’s proven that they cannot be trusted to drive responsibly, that they’re more concerned about their own personal world than other people’s safety and lives, then that’s it for them. Get rides, take public transportation, buy a bicycle, or walk more than the twenty steps from the couch to the fridge. But driving is out. Period.

Two Items Regarding Airplane Safety

The odds of being on given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade.

Item one:

Chart: The Odds of Airborne TerrorOver the past decade, there have been, by my count, six attempted terrorist incidents on board a commercial airliner than landed in or departed from the United States: the four planes that were hijacked on 9/11, the shoe bomber incident in December 2001, and the NWA flight 253 incident on Christmas….

Over the past decade, according to BTS, there have been 99,320,309 commercial airline departures that either originated or landed within the United States. Dividing by six, we get one terrorist incident per 16,553,385 departures….

the odds of being on given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade. By contrast, the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are about 1 in 500,000. This means that you could board 20 flights per year and still be less likely to be the subject of an attempted terrorist attack than to be struck by lightning.

Item two:

Our current response to terrorism is a form of “magical thinking.” It relies on the idea that we can somehow make ourselves safer by protecting against what the terrorists happened to do last time.

Unfortunately for politicians, the security measures that work are largely invisible. Such measures include enhancing the intelligence-gathering abilities of the secret services, hiring cultural experts and Arabic translators, building bridges with Islamic communities both nationally and internationally, funding police capabilities — both investigative arms to prevent terrorist attacks, and emergency communications systems for after attacks occur — and arresting terrorist plotters without media fanfare.

They do not include expansive new police or spying laws. Our police don’t need any new laws to deal with terrorism; rather, they need apolitical funding. […]

It’s not security theater we need, it’s direct appeals to our feelings. The best way to help people feel secure is by acting secure around them. Instead of reacting to terrorism with fear, we — and our leaders — need to react with indomitability, the kind of strength shown by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill during World War II.

By not overreacting, by not responding to movie-plot threats, and by not becoming defensive, we demonstrate the resilience of our society, in our laws, our culture, our freedoms. There is a difference between indomitability and arrogant “bring ’em on” rhetoric. There’s a difference between accepting the inherent risk that comes with a free and open society, and hyping the threats.

We should treat terrorists like common criminals and give them all the benefits of true and open justice — not merely because it demonstrates our indomitability, but because it makes us all safer. […]

Despite fearful rhetoric to the contrary, terrorism is not a transcendent threat. A terrorist attack cannot possibly destroy a country’s way of life; it’s only our reaction to that attack that can do that kind of damage. The more we undermine our own laws, the more we convert our buildings into fortresses, the more we reduce the freedoms and liberties at the foundation of our societies, the more we’re doing the terrorists’ job for them.

Your Cellphone Can Kill

**If I can tell that you are talking to me on a cell phone while driving, _I will hang up_ after asking you to call me back later.** I don’t care if you’re friend, family, job recruiter, Trent Reznor, or Barack Obama. Do _not_ call me while driving. It’s stupid and dangerous to yourself and anyone around you.

I’ve had a guideline in my head for some time that I haven’t always followed as closely as I should. From here on out, I’m going to be making a much more determined effort to follow through.

If I can tell that you are talking to me on a cell phone while driving, I will hang up after asking you to call me back later.

I don’t care if you’re friend, family, job recruiter, Trent Reznor, or Barack Obama. Do not call me while driving. It’s stupid and dangerous to yourself and anyone around you.

There really shouldn’t need to be much explanation on this one, but just in case, here’s excerpts from two recent articles from the New York Times that essentially confirm what should be blatantly obvious to everyone.

Driven to Distraction: Drivers and Legislators Dismiss Cellphone Risks

Extensive research shows the dangers of distracted driving. Studies say that drivers using phones are four times as likely to cause a crash as other drivers, and the likelihood that they will crash is equal to that of someone with a .08 percent blood alcohol level, the point at which drivers are generally considered intoxicated. Research also shows that hands-free devices do not eliminate the risks, and may worsen them by suggesting that the behavior is safe.

Five states and the District of Columbia require drivers who talk on cellphones to use hands-free devices, but research shows that using headsets can be as dangerous as holding a phone because the conversation distracts drivers from focusing on the road. [Not to mention all the people in Washington who blatantly ignore the law and don’t even use hands-free headsets, because we wussed out and passed a watered-down, ineffectual law that is practically pointless. -mh]

[Simulation-based] research, showing that multitasking drivers are four times as likely to crash as people who are focused on driving, matches the findings of two studies, in Canada and in Australia, of drivers on actual roads.

The highway safety administration estimates that drivers using a hand-held device are at 1.3 times greater risk of a crash or near crash, and at three times the risk when dialing, compared with others who are simply driving.

Research also shows that drivers conversing with fellow passengers do not present the same danger, because adult riders help keep drivers alert and point out dangerous conditions and tend to talk less in heavy traffic or hazardous weather.

“There is zero doubt that one’s driving ability is impaired when one is trying to have a cellphone conversation — whether hands-free or hand-held, it doesn’t matter,” said David E. Meyer, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.

In fact, some scientists argue that hands-free laws make driving riskier by effectively condoning the practice.

U.S. Withheld Data on Risks of Distracted Driving

[The] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration…decided not to make public hundreds of pages of research and warnings about the use of phones by drivers — in part, officials say, because of concerns about angering Congress.

The former head of the highway safety agency said he was urged to withhold the research to avoid antagonizing members of Congress who had warned the agency to stick to its mission of gathering safety data but not to lobby states.

Critics say that rationale and the failure of the Transportation Department, which oversees the highway agency, to more vigorously pursue distracted driving has cost lives and allowed to blossom a culture of behind-the-wheel multitasking.

“We’re looking at a problem that could be as bad as drunk driving, and the government has covered it up,” said Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety.

Mr. Ditlow said that putting fears of the House panel ahead of public safety was an abdication of the agency’s responsibility.

“No public health and safety agency should allow its research to be suppressed for political reasons,” he said. Doing so “will cause deaths and injuries on the highways.”