Friday, October 19, 2007

Most fake bombs missed by screeners

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I am no fan of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). It's not that I don't think airline security is a good idea — of course it is. But my personal experience, and that of everyone I talk to, is that the current restrictions in place on ordinary travelers do little if anything to make us any safer. Instead, rules such as no more than 3 oz. of liquids in your carry-on luggage and removing your shoes for screening seem more like attempts at making the public feel safer by having us experience these “safety” restrictions firsthand.

So I'm not really surprised to read in USA Today that while the TSA screeners are busy throwing out your 6 oz. bottle of shampoo, they're missing the real safety threats:
Security screeners at two of the nation's busiest airports failed to find fake bombs hidden on undercover agents posing as passengers in more than 60% of tests last year, according to a classified report obtained by USA TODAY.

Screeners at Los Angeles International Airport missed about 75% of simulated explosives and bomb parts that Transportation Security Administration testers hid under their clothes or in carry-on bags at checkpoints, the TSA report shows.

Among the “explosives” missed by the TSA screeners:

• Detonator and explosives hidden in briefcase lining

• Inert explosives inside CD players

• Fake dynamite and timer in toiletry kit

• Phony plastic explosive and battery inside hollowed-out book

But remember, they pulled me aside for my granola bar! You can read more here.

Happy Friday video break

Get a jump on the weekend with the White Stripes and “Seven Nation Army”:

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Right Wing Pundit on Hillary: "At least call her a Vaginal-American"

It looks like the gloves have come off, and the Hillary Clinton haters are now showing their true colors. As far as we have come in this country to treat everyone as equals, it's now back to slamming Clinton because ... she's a woman! Gasp!

Watch the clip from Tucker here.

From Crooks and Liars:
This clip from Monday’s Tucker pegged the creepy/sexist meter. Right wing pundit Cliff May and Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson were talking about Senator Hillary Clinton and whether or not it should matter that some women may vote for her based on her gender.

Tucker throws out a frat boy style genitalia joke and spouts off about women’s loyalty to the Clintons. Not to be outdone, May, who is as whacked out as they come in the GOP, tells Tucker he doesn’t think people should vote for a candidate based on their race, religion or gender — then burps this beauty across the table which is sure to have the ladies lining up to join the Republican Party:

May: “At least call her a Vaginal-American.”

If anyone is still watching Tucker Carlson, please stop. Or explain to me why you are watching. He's immature, homophobic, sexist, and no, he can't dance. A recent poll showed that 94% of women under age 34 say they're more likely to vote in the next presidential election if there's a woman on the ballot, and Tucker Carlson is skeered!

Vaginal-American? I try to keep it clean here, so does that mean I can call May a Penis-Head?

"Impeach Bush" Playing Cards sent to every member of Congress

From AfterDowningstreet:
Chicago, IL (DU) October 16, 2007 -- With a 75% disapproval rating and millions of Americans demanding for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, it was only a matter of time until someone took the Pentagon's "Most Wanted" card concept and turned it on the administration itself. Released last month, the "Royal Flush: Impeach Bush Now" playing card deck lists 54 reasons to impeach the president and remove him from office for high crimes and misdemeanors against the Constitution and the United States.

Read more here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Putting a face on the Jena Six

Before the Jena Six rally on September 20th, I posted my opinion that injustice was being done to these six young men, who are charged with varying degrees of attempted murder for a schoolyard brawl while the white students who instigated the fight by hanging a noose in a schoolyard tree were simply suspended from school for a few days.

There are a lot of heated emotions on this subject. People in the public eye have taken up both sides quite fervently. It's become hard to know what is fact and what has been exaggerated by the media. I also know that a lot of people don't agree with my opinion on this matter. I know of one reader who stopped reading this blog because he so strongly disagrees with what I said about the Jena Six and the boys who put up the noose.

So I was pleased to come across an interview with the mother of one of the Jena Six, Bryant Purvis. The interview with Purvis' mother, Tina Jones, appears in In These Times, and is a thoughtful and articulate description of the facts in her son's case.

I don't claim to be a legal scholar, but it is fairly obvious after reading this interview that in Purvis's case, the charges are bogus. No matter what your thoughts are on the Jena Six, I encourage you to read this story about one of the individuals. It is, after all, important to remember that behind the catchy “Jena Six” phrase, there are six young men facing life-altering criminal charges.
How would you describe your son Bryant?

Bryant was an honor student throughout his first three years of high school. He also played basketball and football, but his main thing was basketball. Hopefully, he’ll get to graduate and go to college and play basketball. If not, he wants to become a coach.

He’s also a people person. When people see his car or somebody finds out he’s here, everybody just walks over to visit.

When did you first know that your son might face legal trouble because of the events at the high school?

Bryant came home and told me that there was a fight at school and that several kids were arrested. Lo and behold, the next day when I get to work, my aunt comes and tells me that Bryant was at the courthouse. I didn’t think it was anything related to the fight. I thought something else had happened.

I rushed down there and they told me that Bryant had been charged.

You were shocked to hear Bryant was being charged. Was Bryant as surprised as you were?

He was very surprised, because he wasn’t in the fight at all. Bryant wasn’t involved in anything that led up to the fight.

Read more here.

Are Sara Lee and others gouging the military?

Sara Lee (she of the size 14 carbon footprint), Perdue, ConAgra are being investigated by the US Justice Department for potentially overcharging the military as a part of deals made by their consultants — who are former military procurement officers.

According to a story in the Wall Street Journal,

Investigators from the Justice Department and the Defense Department are looking into deals that Perdue Farms Inc., Sara Lee Corp., ConAgra Foods Inc. and other U.S. companies made to supply the military, according to people involved in the inquiry. The companies made the deals with the help of former U.S. military procurement officials they hired as consultants or executives.

The inquiry is focused on whether the food companies set excessively high prices when they sold their goods to the Army's primary food contractor for the war zone, a Kuwaiti firm called Public Warehousing Co. A related question is whether Public Warehousing improperly pocketed for itself refunds it received from these suppliers. Public Warehousing bought vast amounts of meat, vegetables and bakery items from the food companies, and delivered them to U.S. troops.

Read more here.

Wednesday Poetry Break

At Becky's Piano Recital

She screws her face up as she nears the hard parts,
Then beams with relief as she makes it through,
Just as she did listening on the edge of her chair
To the children who played before her,
Wincing and smiling for them
As if she doesn't regard them as competitors
And is free of the need to be first
That vexes many all their lives.
I hope she stays like this,
Her windows open on all sides to a breeze
Pungent with sea spray or meadow pollen.
Maybe her patience this morning at the pond
Was another good sign,
The way she waited for the frog to croak again
So she could find its hiding place and admire it.
There it was, in the reeds, to any casual passerby
Only a fist-sized speckled stone.
All the way home she wondered out loud
What kind of enemies a frog must have
To make it live so hidden, so disguised.
Whatever enemies follow her when she's grown,
Whatever worry or anger drives her at night from her room
To walk in the gusty rain past the town edge,
Her spirit, after an hour, will do what it can
To be distracted by the light of a farmhouse.
What are they doing up there so late,
She'll wonder, then watch in her mind's eye
As the family huddles in the kitchen
To worry if the bank will be satisfied
This month with only half a payment,
If the letter from the wandering son
Really means he's coming home soon.
Even old age won't cramp her
If she loses herself on her evening walk
In piano music drifting from a house
And imagines the upright in the parlor
And the girl working up the same hard passages.

— by Carl Dennis

Monday, October 15, 2007

Women, Politics, and Blogs

This is really shaping up into an interesting year for women in politics. For the the first time in U.S. history, a woman has a real shot at becoming president. A woman is already in the Speaker of the House for the first time, and in my hometown of Baltimore, we are looking at the 99% probability that we will have women in the positions of Mayor, City Council President, and U.S. States Attorney. I think it is really a pivotal time in U.S. politics for women.

Not surprisingly, this change has brought about a lot of discussion in both the MSM and the blogosphere about women in politics. Recently I told you about a wonderful list gathered by Catherine Morgan at InformedVoters of A List of (Over) 100 Women Blogging on Politics. That list is now at more than 200 sites!

One of the reasons Catherine posted this list was because of a story that appeared in the New York Times entitled “Women, Politics, and the Internet.” Author Katharine Seelye states: “We know that women slightly outnumber men online. But at least anecdotally, it seems as if more men are on the political blogs, writing specifically about politics, reading about politics and putting in their two cents in the comments sections.”

What do you think? Seelye received a storm of comments about her article. I encourage you to check it out here and let me know what you think. I suspect there are going to be a lot of informed women voters going to the polls in 2008.

Climate Change: How can anyone even question it anymore?

One of the most amazing things I heard from the Sunday morning talking heads yesterday was lunatic pundit George Will's anger at the awarding of the Nobel Peace Price to Al Gore. Will was seething that such "baseless" claims of global warming were being recognized. He trotted out the ancient argument that "scientists don't agree" on the amount of polar ice melt, and that the current warming is all a part of nature's course.

To their credit, the other three on the panel (Sam Donaldson, Cokie Roberts, and George Stephanopolos) calmly refuted his tirade, albeit with a bemused look at the sad little man. All three agreed that while there may merit discussion on the severity of the problem (is it just the polar ice cap that's melting, or Greenland, as stated in An Inconvenient Truth?), there is no question that global warming/ climate change is a real problem.

I came across an interesting website that gives information on the efforts of companies to adress this issue. Because after all, even though you and I do everything we can to recycle, reuse, and reduce, the biggest impact is by far from manufacturing and other large corporations. You can see “who takes climate change seriously” (obviously George Will's name is not there!) at ClimateCounts.

For example, while it's true that “nobody doesn't like Sara Lee”, you might not like her so much after you read that she's basically doing nothing to decrease her rather large footprint. However, you will be pleased to know that Unilever, makers of Country Crock, Hellman's, Knorr, Lifebuoy, Lipton, Lux, Pond's, Slimfast, Vaseline, Wishbone, Dove, Ben & Jerry's, and I Can't Believe It's not Butter, among other things, has been tracking and reducing their impact on globla warming since 1995.