Deja vu all over again

In the run-up to the Iraq war, the mainstream media, especially the supposedly liberal New York TimesWashington Post gave full credence and front-page coverage to the administration claims (most of which, later proved to be bogus) while burying news items which questioned this perspective (and, of course, turned out to be much more accurate) deep in the A section.  So, you think they've learned– right?

Unfortunately, the answer is no.  Here's today's disturbing story in the Post, unfortunately buried on A17:

U.N. inspectors investigating Iran's nuclear program angrily
complained to the Bush administration and to a Republican congressman
yesterday about a recent House committee report on Iran's capabilities,
calling parts of the document “outrageous and dishonest” and offering
evidence to refute its central claims.

Officials of the United
Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency said in a letter that the
report contained some “erroneous, misleading and unsubstantiated
statements.” …

The agency noted five major errors in the committee's 29-page
report, which said Iran's nuclear capabilities are more advanced than
either the IAEA or U.S. intelligence has shown.

Among the
committee's assertions is that Iran is producing weapons-grade uranium
at its facility in the town of Natanz. The IAEA called that
“incorrect,” noting that weapons-grade uranium is enriched to a level
of 90 percent or more. Iran has enriched uranium to 3.5 percent under
IAEA monitoring.

So, those who would seem to favor military action on a middle-eastern nation get front-page coverage of their false claims while the debunking of those claims is given short shrift.  Sounds a lot like Iraq.  And we know how well that turned out. 

On a quasi-related note, one interesting feature of this coverage is that it shows how washingtonpost.com and the print edition are truly different entities with very different editorial control.  The print newspaper provides most of the content to washingtonpost.com, but their editorial staff decides how, where, etc., it will be featured on the website.  In this case, today's print A17 story got front page treatment on the website.  Seems pretty clear to me whose editorial staff is making the right value judgments. 

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What’s on the airplanes?

Liquids smuggled aboard by ordinary passengers who appreciate the sheer idiocy of the new “no liquid” regime.  From yesterday's Post:

Like Shanker, many people are inadvertently taking banned liquids
and gels through security in their pockets and carry-on luggage,
according to interviews with several dozen travelers at local airports
and with pilots and security officials.

Others, however, say
they're simply not going to tolerate the new rules. They admit that
they ignore the restrictions, slipping expensive cologne, perfume, lip
gloss, lotion and other ointments into their carry-on bags or into
their pockets in hopes of sneaking them past security. Some of the
items get flagged by screeners, others do not.

I know of one friend who smuggled some toothpaste just so she could brush her teeth (a bit of obsession) and another person, who shall remain nameless, who brought on a snow globe to bring home to a six-year old.  According to the TSA, however:

“Travelers must realize this isn't a game,” [TSA spokeswoman] Howe said. “The threat is
real and it continues, and we appreciate the public's cooperation. Is
it the perfect system? No. But does it make it right to sneak things
through security? No, it doesn't.”

Given the myriad holes in this system that it appears one could drive an ocean liner through, I fail to see how this makes any system.  No, its not the perfect system, it is a ludicrous system that does nothing to make us any safer.  Given the stories in this article do they really think that these regulations would in anyway thwart a determined terrorist?  According to the article, given current technology in use, it would be easy enough to just have a container of liquid under one's loose clothes and walk right through the metal dectetor 

Here's what the President of the Coalition for Airline Pilots had to say about the matter:

Gary Boettcher, a pilot and president of the Coalition for Airline
Pilots Association, a trade group that closely tracks security issues,
said he constantly sees people drinking from illicit bottles of water
or putting on lip gloss when he walks through the passenger cabin. Most
of the time, he said, it doesn't bother him.

“They are just doing
their routines like they always did,” Boettcher said. “An old woman
drinking a bottle of water doesn't concern me. . . . The whole
screening process is a facade to make the public feel safe, to show
that the government is doing something.”

Patrick Smith, Salon.com's “Ask the Pilot” delivers a terrific excoriation of the inanity of the current rules here:

For instance, TSA's new carry-on rules aren't just stupid, they are so
stupid that it's hard to believe the agency hasn't yet been called to
the carpet. As I learned a week ago traveling to San Francisco, not
only is it forbidden to bring a beverage through the security
checkpoint, it is forbidden to bring a beverage that has been purchased
in the secure zone onto a plane. The lack of logic is absolutely
maddening: If somehow saboteurs were able to get a workable liquid
explosive into the gate-side Burger King, and from there into the hands
of a passenger accomplice, could they not do the same with other
forms of explosives — or for that matter with knives, guns, pipe bombs
and bags of anthrax? Airlines have begun making public address
announcements encouraging passengers to finish their drinks in time for
boarding. The sight of businessmen, clustered at the mouth of the
boarding bridge, gulping down coffee at final call was equally amusing
and pathetic.

No airlines responded to requests for comment, while one well-placed
industry source said only: “Given your clear extremist views and
totally skewed understanding of the facts, I find it best not to
respond on the record.”

No offense, but if anything is “extremist,” it's the notion that
confiscating coffee cups and hand lotion truly makes us safer, and that
subjecting millions of fliers to security theater, rather than actual
security, is in the airlines' best interest.

And to sum it up (third hand):

Allow me to quote Bruce Schneier, the author and security guru, who in a recent blog entry more elegantly sums things up:

“The point of terrorism is to cause terror. The people terrorists
kill are not the targets; they are collateral damage. And blowing up
planes, trains, markets or buses is not the goal; those are just
tactics. The real targets of terrorism are the rest of us: the billions
of us who are not killed but are terrorized because of the killing. The
real point of terrorism is not the act itself, but our reaction to the
act. And we're doing exactly what the terrorists want.”

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