Planning a trip anywhere next year? It might not be a bad idea to make driving plans instead of flying — since the US is planning to start flagging and detaining travellers at the airports.

In the most aggressive — and, some say, invasive — step yet to protect air travelers, the federal government and the airlines will phase in a computer system next year to measure the risk posed by every passenger on every flight in the United States.

The new Transportation Security Administration system seeks to probe deeper into each passenger’s identity than is currently possible, comparing personal information against criminal records and intelligence information. Passengers will be assigned a color code — green, yellow or red — based in part on their city of departure, destination, traveling companions and date of ticket purchase.

Most people will be coded green and sail through. But up to 8 percent of passengers who board the nation’s 26,000 daily flights will be coded “yellow” and will undergo additional screening at the checkpoint, according to people familiar with the program. An estimated 1 to 2 percent will be labeled “red” and will be prohibited from boarding. These passengers also will face police questioning and may be arrested.

The system “will provide protections for the flying public,” said TSA spokesman Brian Turmail. “Not only should we keep passengers from sitting next to a terrorist, we should keep them from sitting next to wanted ax murderers.”

Okay, ignoring the “ax murderer” line for now — surely one of the most blatantly idiotic and ripe for ridicule statments reported in the press lately (which is saying something, given our current president) — let’s just take a look at the numbers here. The article mentions 26,000 daily flights. Assuming 100 passengers per flight (quite possibly a low estimate), that’s 2,600,000 people screened per day. Of those, up to 8 percent — 208,000 people — will be “yellow tagged” for extra screening. One to two percent — between 26,000 and 52,000 people — will be “red tagged”, questioned by police, and possibly arrested.

Per day.

That’s insane.

From later on in the article:

The existing system identifies certain passengers as risky based on a set of assumptions about how terrorists travel. For instance, passengers are flagged for additional screening if they bought a one-way airline ticket, or if they paid with cash instead of a credit card. Passengers who present a threat under these and other criteria are issued boarding passes that bear a coding of “SSS” or \”***.\”

Well, that explains some of the fun I’ve had travelling over the past couple years. While the measures quoted above were enacted after I moved to Seattle, when I did move here, I did so by purchasing a one-way ticket (since I was moving, there wasn’t much sense in a round-trip flight), and doing so with cash (technically a check, but it certainly wasn’t by credit card, as due to my own goofs in past years, my current credit rating doesn’t allow me to get a credit card). Since then, when I’ve travelled, though the flights have been round-trip and purchased (probably) by credit card, the tickets have been purchased by people other than myself (usually my parents, when I’ve visited Alaska) — and I’m guessing that that’s quite possibly another flag. Either that, or I’m just naturally threatening, since I’ve been pulled out of the line on every flight I’ve been on since Sept. 11 for extra screening. This doesn’t bode well for my chances on future flights under the new system.

Under the new program, the airline will send information about everyone who books a flight to the TSA, including full name, home address, home telephone number, date of birth and travel itinerary. If the computer system identifies a threat, the TSA will notify federal or local law enforcement authorities. The agency has not indicated the number or type of personnel needed to oversee the program.

The TSA will check each passenger in two steps. The first will match the passenger’s name and information against databases of private companies that collect information on people for commercial reasons, such as their shopping habits. This process will generate a numerical score that will indicate the likelihood that the passenger is who he says he is. Passengers will not be informed of their color code or their numerical score. The second step matches passenger information against government intelligence combined with local and state outstanding warrants for violent felonies.

All of your personal information will be used to catalog and profile you, including shopping habits. Don’t splurge on a new toy you’ve been saving for — that’s outside of your normal shopping profile, and you must not be you! Don’t buy an present for a friend that isn’t anything you’d normally buy. And for god’s sake, don’t suddenly start buying a lot of liberal anti-government publications — you’re obviously a terrorist! The worst part is, I’m not sure that I’m actually overreacting here.

The ACLU is listing their five problems with CAPPS II. In brief:

  1. The Black Box: Americans Judged In Secret
  2. Effectiveness: This System Will Not Make Us Any Safer
  3. Mission Creep: Build It And It Will Grow
  4. Due Process: No Notification, No Correction, No Appeal
  5. Discriminatory impact: the potential for systematic unequal treatment

Salon is also looking at this, though while I’ve yet to read anything but the teaser, it seems they’re looking at another angle:

It’s at once an Orwellian prospect and a potential gold mine for the travel industry: A database of the type envisioned by the government would allow hotels and airlines to get their hands on your lifetime itinerary.

And, lastly, there’s some good (frustrated, upset, pissed off, sarcastic) commentary in the MetaFilter thread about this.

As opposed to the standard color coding system that takes place outside of airports of white and brown…

jonson

Hmm. In addition to the always popular “Driving whilst black”, doubtless we shall now have added “Flying whilst muslim”. Phew. Thank goodness this is the land of the free, and not some tyrannical regime that locks up innocent citizens for nothing, eh?

kaemaril

So, rather than address some very real security issues, the TSA gives us a horribly flawed system ripe for abuse and the illusion of safety procured at the expense of civil liberties. Gee, thanks.

UnReality

So the logical next step might be to make the non-green passengers wear something to make them more identifiable. I don’t know…how about an armband with a yellow star? (Presumably a red star wouldn’t be needed since the exceptionally non-green would just be taken out back and shot.)

327.ca

I am of the belief that things like this are leaked in an effort to gauge public opinion. It is therefore imperative that those who disagree with it be as vocal as possible.

jpoulos (emphasis mine, however)

Just as an paranoid aside: what, exactly, stops them from implementing a similar system – you know, just to make sure you’re not sitting next to a terrorist or axe murderer – on trains and buses? I’m sure nobody could object too strenously to being “profiled” upon buying a train or bus ticket. Could they? Maybe a few random bus and train “inspections” every so often by the police, making sure you’ve got a valid right to travel … after all, travel is a luxury and not a right :)

kaemaril

This one’s mostly just for me — originally from Ken Tidwell and posted on MacInTouch, but as their archives can be difficult to search, I wanted to keep this around. If all goes well, it might come in handy in a couple weeks. ;)

  1. RAM must be added in pairs only…all models. Opinions vary, but 1gb \~ 2gb RAM seems to be a general minimum before these units really shine. […]

  2. Clean the cast aluminum exterior with iKlear from Apple, or a mild dishwashing detergent.

  3. PCI-X (1.8GHz and 2.0GHz G5s only) supports both PCI-X and PCI… but 3.3 volts only… not 5 V.

  4. The case latch can be used as a locking point for a security cable.

  5. Carbon Copy Cloner is a great tool for moving data from another Mac.

  6. Virtual PC (current version…6?) will not yet run on a G5.

  7. The OS shipping with the G5s at this time is an interim OS, and does not yet support the 64-bit capability of this machine. Give it another 2 to 4 months.

  8. FireWire 800 uses a different connector from FireWire 400 (and Sony’s 4-pin connector).

  9. The Sony DVD writer is not capable of handling DVD+R.

  10. The aluminum case inhibits Bluetooth and Airport signals…don’t forget to mount the external antenna(s).

  11. The G5 will automatically reduce processor speed in response to having the side cover(s) removed. There is also a system preference for selective control. From the G5 Developer Note:

    Fan speed control: The speeds of the fans are thermally controlled and are automatically set as low as possible to minimize noise. System performance can be specified by a “high/reduced/automatic” pulldown option provided in the Energy Saver Control pane in System Preferences.

  12. The rear video connector labeled DVI supports both DVI-I and DVI-D.

  13. The rear digital audio connection is a TOSLINK connector…be sure to buy optical cables that use the square (indexed) connector (not round) on at least one end.

  14. The four screws on the interior bulkhead near the drives are spares that are used when installing a second hard disk. [photo]

  15. The analog audio input on the rear can be used for directly connecting a microphone, which must be self-powered. [Apple’s G5 Developer Note, however, says:

    “The audio inputs are designed to accept high-level audio signals: 2.2 Vrms or +8 dbu, which is the standard output level from CD and DVD players. The output level of some consumer audio devices is lower, often 0.316 Vrms or -10 dbV. Sound recordings made on the Power Mac G5 with such low-level devices have more noise than those made with high-level devices.”

    -MacInTouch]

  16. The power supply is auto-ranging, meaning it will switch between two choices of voltages: 100-125V AC or 200-240V AC.

  17. The USB ports on the computer itself are USB 2.0, while the USB ports on the keyboard are USB 1.1.

  18. G5 owners interested or working with ‘High Throughput Computing’ are advised to check out Condor.

  19. G5’ers curious about 64-bit computing can start here: [Ars Technica 64-bit introduction]

  20. A good demo for friends and family is always a movie…stop by the Apple Quicktime site for latest trailers.

Looks like high schoolers in Alaska’s Denali Borough School District will be getting Apple PowerBook G4 computers for their school year!

When school begins Sept. 15, the Denali Borough School District will become the first in Alaska to provide a laptop computer for every student in grades 9 through 12. A total of 129 laptop computers are being prepared to hand over to high schoolers at Tri-Valley, Anderson and Cantwell schools.

This “one-on-one initiative” is the result of a partnership between the Denali Borough School District and Apple Computer, and is based on programs in other states, particularly in Virginia and in Maine.

(via MacBytes)

Penguins

(This picture has nothing to do with the story aside from the fact that it’s penguins, I’ve been looking for an excuse to use it, and it cracks me up. Anyway…)

After eight years away from newspapers, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Berkeley Breathed is creating a new comic strip called “Opus,” starring his beloved penguin of the same name.

The Washington Post Writers Group, which will syndicate the strip, is expected to officially announce Breathed’s return this Sunday. The reclusive Breathed, who rarely gives interviews, could not be reached yesterday for comment.

The new strip will appear on Sundays in The Washington Post starting Nov. 23.

(via /.)

Okay, so on one level, this article about a man who shipped himself from New York to Texas is kind of amusing. Wanting to save a few bucks, he somehow puts himself in a shipping crate, manages to survive two flights in cargo planes, then pops out of the box once he arrives at his parents house — at which point the surprised delivery man calls the police, who arrest the man on an outstanding warrant.

But, on another level — aren’t we supposed to have more stringent screening of airline flights, and what’s getting shipped around the country? While I’m sure they can’t x-ray or check every box that gets shipped around, it seems to me that this one might have had something about it that might have raised some questions. Apparently the guy had enough room to move in the box to use a prybar to open it when he arrived at his destination — wouldn’t that affect the balance of the box enough to catch someone’s eye while it was being moved around? I don’t know what all else, but it just seems amazing to me that this guy successfully did this, and that he’d have gotten away with it if he hadn’t opened the box while the delivery driver was still there.

Somehow until now Fred Phelps had managed to slip completely under my radar, but from what I’ve seen this evening, this man needs some serious help.

It seems that today was opening day for New York’s Harvey Milk School, a high school for GLBT teens who do not feel safe going to normal public schools. The streets outside the school were filled with demonstrators — primarily many people giving their support to the kids, because Phelps had arranged his own demonstration. Phelps and his small group of “Christians” (and I use the term very loosely here) were protesting the school and its students with signs with such warm, Christian sentiments as “God Hates Fags”, “Fags FDNY”, and “Thank God for Sept. 11” while standing on American flags.

It never ceases to amaze and sadden me the horrible things people will do in the name of Christianity.

(via the go fish)

Oh, and just in case you’ve been considering upgrading or switching, Apple announced bigger iPods and faster iMacs this morning. The iMac base models are now \$1299 for a 1Ghz G4, and \$1799 for a 1.25Ghz G4. Not bad at all.

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for my new G5 to show up — which is okay, since I’m also still scraping together the last little bit of cash I need to finish paying for the fool thing!

Real life imitates art.

(via Dori Smith — sorry for the word-for-word copy, but with four words to work with, it seemed silly to rework it)

Update:

Of course, the thing about flash mobs (at least originally) is that they were underground, unpublicised, seemingly-spontaneous events. With this particular one originating in a comic strip, being turned into reality, and then posted around the ‘net (here, Dori’s post, Blog for America, The Democratic Primary 2004 Thread, The Mediaburn Radio Weblog, Pacific Views, and probably many others), doesn’t that more or less kill much of the original spirit of the ‘flash mob’ meme?

Or maybe I’m just grumbling again.

I’ve been getting some great feedback on the new design, and it’s very appreciated. The kind words on the new look are always flattering, and pointing out areas that are confusing is wonderfully helpful. Things that make sense to me as I’m putting it all together don’t always fly in the real world, and I’m never upset by constructive criticism!

A ‘home’ link has now been added to the navigation bar for all the sub-pages. While I’d had the ‘eclecticism’ title linked back to the home page, it wasn’t terribly obvious, so this should clear up any confusion there. Besides, a little redundancy never hurt.

I’m going to need to do a little tinkering to the display of the comments. I decided to break with convention a bit and put the byline of each comment above the post, rather than below, which seems to be a tad disorienting. Breaking conventions is all well and good — doing so at the cost of usability isn’t. Fixing that is high on the priority list.

Next on the priority list will be adding a bit more space between individual posts on the main page and comments in the comment threads. I’ll need to figure out the best way to do that — because I’m using a display: inline; declaration for the h3 tags to set the border just around the text rather than across the width of the div, simply adding a margin-top: 10px; argument won’t work. I could simply add one or two p or br tags to add some lines of whitespace, but that introduces some unnecessary (purely presentational) code, which I’m trying to avoid, so I’d like to come up with a better solution than that. We’ll see how that goes.

How this page looks in Safari

Right now, the lowest priority is fighting with the skyline image at the top. If those of you that are seeing problems with the display of the image could let me know what browser/version/OS/resolution you’re using, as well as telling me that it’s ‘off-center’, it’d help greatly. I’m using Safari 1.0 on Mac OS X, at 1024×768, and the header looks fine to me. I also checked it in Camino (which should match with Mozilla or Netscape, as they use the same rendering engine), and it was good there. It was only in IE/Mac OS X that I saw any issues (and I haven’t looked into that yet). Unfortunately, my PC is dead at the moment, so I can’t test the site on PC browsers from home, but I’ll certainly be looking into it from work.

Anyway, I’m quite gratified that the design seems to be fairly well received, and that any bugs that have been mentioned so far are actually fairly minor. It’s about time I started exploring different ideas, and you all are helping me iron things out a lot. I’ll buy you a drink next time you’re in town. :)

2003/09/graphics/dawnemilyamy

You will notice, however, that I am not in my bed. ;)

That’s Dawn, Emily, and Amy on the phone, planning the upcoming days as they get ready to fly up to Alaska, then drive from Fairbanks to Tennessee where Emily’s family lives, with stops on the way to return Dawn and Amy to their respective homes.