Thursday, January 24, 2002

Here's Johnny!

Heeee's baaaaack. Yes Taliboy, scrubbed and shorn, is back in the USA, (Alexandria VA) for an appearance before a federal court. He's pulling the whole respectful and abashed act for the judge common to spoilt rich kids who get caught. Meanwhile his mother, Marilyn Walker, says:

It's been two years since I last saw my son. It was wonderful to see him this morning. My love for him is unconditional and absolute,"

She is trying to hide her failure as a parent behind the false nobility of unconditional love. Where were she and daddy when Johnny started up with the crackpot Islam? No doubt cooing to their friends about their unconditional love for their son as evidenced by their supporting him in his ridiculous search for an identity. Love sometimes means guiding one’s charges to do the right thing, not mere indulgence and adulation. Funny how Bin Walker sought out an organization that supplied dogma on the sartorial and the tonsorial, indubitably such guidance was lacking from his parents. It’s just too bad he didn’t seek it from the Marine Corps, then mamma could be proud instead of just loving him unconditionally. Crimeny! Had I pulled such a boner as to join a bunch of Islamofascists and commit treason as a teen, it would have been in spite of my mother’s consul and she would have been waiting at the airport to kill me should I be returned. What ever happened to wanting to make one’s family proud? Is that so trite? What about shame? Or at least washing one’s hands of the creep: “Hey you try to raise them right, give them a good home, but once they are adults…” How about daddy?:
John loves America. We love America," his father, Frank Lindh, said after the hearing. He said his son was innocent of the charges.

Yeah, you love America now that she has a gun to your creepy son’s head. What about when you footed the bill for him to “study in Yemen.?” What about when Taliboy told you over the phone that he supported the attack on the COLE? How about when he was being interrogated by the now dead CIA agent (and former Marine) Mike Spann? That would have been a hell of an opportune time to profess one’s loyalty to the USA. “Whew thank God you guys finally came, they kidnapped me and were making me shoot at you (but I missed on purpose)….”
I’ll probably catch a lot of flack for this, but I say again, there is no virtue in unconditional love. Professing it for one’s child or spouse is not noble but rather an invitation for abuse. I am not saying one does not still love one’s child after he is naughty or spouse after he screws up, but that a condition of that love is to register your displeasure when the object of you love is faltering. One should aspire to be loved and please those who love you. If you want to receive unconditional love get a puppy. If you want to give it then get religion.

Wednesday, January 23, 2002

To Fly or to Drive

Jay Manifold actually breaks it down (see Trains Planes...) and supports my SWAG (Scientific Wild Assed Guess) from previous post below below re car vs. plane trade offs. Nice job on the math. It's only a matter of time before the market starts to adjust.
Requisite Post Flight Airport Security Rant

I flew again over the weekend and you all know what that means:

Alex's observations on the current state of airline security (special post federalization edition)

On arriving 2 hours early- New "stricter" federalized security measures certainly had the expected effect. Lines got longer, ridiculously so. What is the freaking point of flying if all of the time saved is wasted in a security line? I arrived around 0530 for a 0630 to Atlanta figuring, from past experience, that the airport would be near deserted this early (NOLA is not exactly overrun with early risers). Was I ever wrong. After dropping my car with the valet (a good deal at $12.00 per day if one is not going to be gone more than a coupla days), I walked in to the terminal to discover the line for security snaking all the way back into the ticketing area. I lost 15 minutes waiting to get my boarding pass at the Airtran counter. Even though I had a ticket and only one carry on bag, I knew from hard experience that the security would not let you through unless you had a boarding pass, presumably to ensure that you had been asked the two questions by the harried clerk at your carrier’s counter:

1) Has anyone unknown to you asked you to carry anything on board?

2) Have your bags been in your possession since you packed them?

I gotta wonder if this screening has or will ever prevent a hijacking or bombing. (“Come to think of it, that swarthy looking fellow with the accent did ask if I would hold these box cutters and this bag of dynamite for him…”) No, the real reason for such inconveniences is that they are easy to implement and give the appearance that something is being done. Still, why can’t the brand new, whiz bang federated security honchos ask those questions? Why should the airlines have to have their clerks asking the two questions? What is that extra ten odd dollars per flight (the new security tariff) supposed to be buying anyway? Matching uniforms for the security teams?
After all of that rigamarole, the airline still screens passsengers at the gate, yet again (“Sorry granny, you gotta take off yer shoes…”).

And the bottom line is that if I had not walked to the front of the queue, past all the poor folk that had arrived much earlier than me, and showed the guard that my plane was about to leave, I would have missed it. Once at the Airtran gate they rifled my bag and made me take off my shoes. No problema, as I have said before, I fit a profile and don’t blame them for looking hard at me. But they treated everyone waiting to board the same way. There is no way passengers will or should put up with this sham “security” for long. It will kill the commuter hops, what is the point of flying if you have to dedicate 2 hours on the ground to security etc? Figure if you live in a large city with an airport, at least 30 minutes to the airport, a charitable 90 minutes for check in and security (if you don’t cut in line), an hour on the plane, another thirty minutes renting a car or getting a cab, and another half-hour getting to your destination from the airport. That’s four hours. 280 miles on the interstate at a legal 70 mph. It’s about 330 interstate miles to Houston from New Orleans. That’s about 16.5 gallons of gas (at 20mpg), call it $20.00 worth of fuel. Give me a radar detector and there is no question which mode of travel for which I would opt. Besides, upon reaching Houston, I’d have my car and not need to rely on a rental or cabs. I am sure there are other better examples, but you get the idea.
OTOH if I could pull up to the airport, clear security in about ten minutes and be in Houston in another hour, I’d consider the flight. Someone much more thorough than me (Steve Den Beste, call your office) might want to figure out which routes are likeliest to suffer due to the pain in the ass of clearing security.

I flew Delta on the way back. If you only have carry on, their Skymiles card is great. Rather than waiting in the huge lines for a boarding pass and the asking of the two questions, one just swipes it at the eticket kiosk and is asked the two questions on the screen. You get a choice of a big YES or NO box on the touchscreen. Tempted as I was to see what would happen if I touched the wrong block by “accident,” (would the kiosk light up and start whooping, automatically sending a call to the bomb squad?) I understood that airport security personnel are notoriously humorless so I answered NO and then YES to the two questions. My boarding pass was printed and I was good to go, elapsed time: < 1 minute. I gotta admire Delta, given dubious security regs, at least they adhered to them as efficiently and conveniently as possible.

On the actual effectiveness of security- My usual carry on bag is a Mark 1, Mod 0, backpack, black. A leftover from my days working with Naval Special Warfare (NSW-again I am and never was nor attempted to be a SEAL- those guys are rightly sensitive to those who try and pass off being in a Special Warfare Command as the same as being a SEAL) it has the usual zippered pockets and a double back into which a water bladder may be installed. I have used the latter feature to great effect to smuggle beer into Jazzfest (it’s $4.00/can inside!). Such was not the case for this trip. In fact I took care to remove the leatherman type tool and a little folding screwdriver I usually keep in the front pocket of my bag and put them in my glove box. This AM at work, I was digging around for change in the bottom of the same pocket and came up with a Spyderco type folding knife, another leftover from NSW (as I mentioned before, they get all the cool gear) that I had apparently forgotten was in there. It’s a nasty looking thing, pretty much the “assault rifle” of pocket knives, with a checked nylon body (with integral belt clip) and a mean looking serrated blade that can be opened with one hand. That bag was X-rayed twice and manually checked once and they missed it. I was not even trying to hide it, hell I forgot I had it. So even though at great cost in time and treasure, the Feds are “fighting the last war,” looking for box cutters and the like at airport security checkpoints, they aren’t even doing that well.

Sunday, January 20, 2002

I guess the archives are back, for the one or two of you friends or relatives who might care. By the way, check out SGT Stryer if you haven't recently. His blog is chock full of pithy comment of late. Were I still in the Nav, I would be tempted to make a crack about his having so much time to blog because the AF is a paramilitary organization, but that inter-service crap goes away when there is a task at hand and everybody has a job to do. Besides, deep down the cracks are signs of affection and respect. OK that's not true, I just wanted to see if I could type it. Seriously, his writings of his experiences convey much more than any nonmilitary reporter could given the same access. Experience certainly colors one's perspective and prose in a way that I think is making many second string conventional journalists nervous. In response to yet another sneering attack on Blogistan, especially the warblog regions, Stryker responds:

Even though I wasn't mentioned (I only rate fifth tier anti-social types), I must call down the thunder of Nelson's "Ha-Ha" upon the poor, unfortunate soul.

For all the bitching they log about the mainstream media, none of the bloggers are actually cruising the streets of Peshawar or Aden or Mogadishu.

Been there, done that, no need to talk about it.
You can cut on Salon all you like, Mr. Blogger, but they have a man in Afghanistan. Do you?

Well, yes I do. Several thousand in fact as well as a few close friends. But you don't expect me to sit here and report non-public information just for the hell of it, do you? Do you???.


While at his site I found a link to an essay On the Implausibility of the Death Star's Trash Compactor which reminded me of this hilarious (to me anyway) exhange about the fate of the contractors on the Death Star from the movie Clerks.

RANDAL
Well, the thing is, the first Death
Star was manned by the Imperial
army-storm troopers, dignitaries-
the only people onboard were
Imperials.

DANTE
Basically.

RANDAL
So when they blew it up, no prob.
Evil is punished.

DANTE
And the second time around...?

49.


RANDAL
The second time around, it wasn't
even finished yet. They were still
under construction.

DANTE
So?

RANDAL
A construction job of that magnitude
would require a helluva lot more
manpower than the Imperial army had
to offer. I'll bet there were
independent contractors working on
that thing: plumbers, aluminum
siders, roofers.

DANTE
Not just Imperials, is what you're
getting at.

RANDAL
Exactly. In order to get it built
quickly and quietly they'd hire
anybody who could do the job. Do
you think the average storm trooper
knows how to install a toilet main?
All they know is killing and white
uniforms.

DANTE
All right, so even if independent
contractors are working on the
Death Star, why are you uneasy with
its destruction?

RANDAL
All those innocent contractors
hired to do a job were killed-
casualties of a war they had
nothing to do with.
(notices Dante's confusion)
All right, look-you're a roofer,
and some juicy government contract
comes your way; you got the wife
and kids and the two-story in
suburbia-this is a government
contract, which means all sorts of
benefits. All of a sudden these
left-wing militants blast you with
lasers and wipe out everyone within
a three-mile radius.
(MORE)

50.


RANDAL (CONT'D)
You didn't ask for that. You have
no personal politics. You're just
trying to scrape out a living.

The BLUE-COLLAR MAN joins them.

BLUE-COLLAR MAN
Excuse me. I don't mean to
interrupt, but what were you
talking about?

RANDAL
The ending of Return of the Jedi.

DANTE
My friend is trying to convince me
that any contractors working on the
uncompleted Death Star were innocent
victims when the space station was
destroyed by the rebels.

BLUE-COLLAR MAN
Well, I'm a contractor myself. I'm
a roofer...
(digs into pocket and
produces business card)
Dunn and Reddy Home Improvements.
And speaking as a roofer, I can say
that a roofer's personal politics
come heavily into play when choosing
jobs.

RANDAL
Like when?

BLUE-COLLAR MAN
Three months ago I was offered a
job up in the hills. A beautiful
house with tons of property. It was
a simple reshingling job, but I was
told that if it was finished within
a day, my price would be doubled.
Then I realized whose house it was.

DANTE
Whose house was it?

BLUE-COLLAR MAN
Dominick Bambino's.

RANDAL
"Babyface" Bambino? The gangster?

51.


BLUE-COLLAR MAN
The same. The money was right, but
the risk was too big. I knew who he
was, and based on that, I passed
the job on to a friend of mine.

DANTE
Based on personal politics.

BLUE-COLLAR MAN
Right. And that week, the Foresci
family put a hit on Babyface's
house. My friend was shot and
killed. He wasn't even finished
shingling.

RANDAL
No way!

BLUE-COLLAR MAN
(paying for coffee)
I'm alive because I knew there were
risks involved taking on that
particular client. My friend wasn't
so lucky.
(pauses to reflect)
You know, any contractor willing to
work on that Death Star knew the
risks. If they were killed, it was
their own fault. A roofer listens
to this...
(taps his heart)
not his wallet.




Also at the site was this Journal of a New COBRA Recruit. Not that I watched the GI Joe Cartoon that much, but I always used to wonder where whathisname the archvillain, got all his troops and why they were so uniformly inept. Now I know.