Quick hits

1) Seriously, there is no industry in America more evil than the credit card industry.  

2) Some nice commentary on the idiocy of Britt Hume telling Tiger Woods to convert to Christianity so that all will be forgiven.   The writer especially takes Hume to task for such a utilitarian take on Christianity and forgiveness.

3) The Post has an interesting on-line debate about whether height matters in success.  Hello?  Of course it does.  This is well-proven.  All the empty platitudes about trying your best, being good listeners, etc., all good paths to success, does not change the basic fact that in our society, all else being equal, it is better to be taller.  I'm 6 feet, I'm not complaining about my height– just the inanity of some of the perspectives. 

The failure of TSA

Anne Applebaum has a smart column on how dumb the TSA and DHS have been.  After this litany, I feared it was another simple-minded bash the bureaucracy piece:

As for the Department of Homeland Security, its 2010 budget came in at $55 billion, some of which (according to economist Veronique de Rugy, writing in 2006)
will invariably be spent on things like the $63,000 decontamination
unit in rural Washington, where no one was trained to use it; more
biochemical suits for Grand Forks County, N.D., than the town has
police officers to wear them; and $557,400 worth of rescue and
communications equipment apparently needed for some 1,500 residents of
the town of North Pole, Alaska.

Fortunately, my fears were wrong, as Applebaum gets it exactly right.  This is not the fault of these agencies, but the fault of Congress who forces these absurd funding allocations upon them. 

But it is not the employees of the DHS and TSA who are at fault for
these kinds of decisions. From the very beginning, security experts and
even their own inspectors have been pointing to the absurdity of TSA's
and DHS's spending patterns, many of which are driven by the latest
scare story. (I wish I'd been at the celebratory New Year's party
undoubtedly thrown by the manufacturers of those full-body scanners.)
And from the very beginning, Congress has fought back against the
critics, repeatedly allocating money to unnecessary local projects,
reacting to sensational news stories, spending money in ways that suit
its members, and then declaring itself shocked—shocked!—to discover
that our multibillion-dollar homeland-security apparatus was unable to
stop a clearly disturbed Nigerian from boarding a Detroit-bound plane.

She goes on to list a number of smarter ways to spend the money (which you should read, if you are curious). What I especially liked, though, was this major point, seemingly lost on most Americans that so much of the problems with the bureaucracy are really problems with Congress. 

Maddow on Cheney and journalism

I'm not much of a fan or viewer of ideological/partisan TV shows.  I'd much rather watch Modern Familiy (best show on TV now– watch it on-line and catch up).  That said, I do enjoy the occassional Rachel Maddow clip I come across on-line.  I thought this, in which she completely takes down Dick Cheney, was was particularly good (I'm linking to the Daily Kos page with the full transcript in addition to the clip).  The reason I love it so much is here concluding paragraph:

Again, my friends and colleagues in the media have two choices in
covering this. You can just copy down what the Republicans and Vice
President Cheney are saying, and click "send," call it journalism, or
you can actually fact-check those comments and put them into context.
Your choice. It’s your country.

We can have journalists or we can have stenographers.  The worst is the latter who think they are the former.


[I originally wrote this almost a week ago, but Wolfblogs has been quite fritzy and I haven't been able to post till yesterday.  I may be King of Wolfblogs, but it is a sadly dysfunctional kingdom]

I recently got involved in a 30+ comment debate/discussion on airport scanners on facebook.  Figured that means I should write something about it here.  The debate started when a friend/colleague suggested the ACLU was out of line for being opposed to the millimeter wave scanning technology for airports.   I'm a fan of the ACLU, especially the work they do against abuse of executive authority, but they need to know when to say when.  Anybody who thinks being subjected to one of these scans is an invasion of their privacy needs to get over themselves.  Most importantly, this process is anonymous (unless, of course, you are carrying contraband) because your face is blurred out and the person looking at the scanned image never actually sees the real human.  Heck, I wouldn't mind if they had a full-body, neck-down naked image of me under these circumstances.  Is the system perfect?  Surely not, but from what I've read and heard it strikes me as substantially better and less invasive than anything else we've got out there.  I'd love to leave my shoes and jacket on and walk through a scanner instead.  I especially like Kevin Drum's take (complete with cool image):

I'll defer to the experts on how and where these devices are best
used, but privacy concerns strike me as daft. Yes, the machines show
the shape of your body under your clothes. Big deal. That strikes me as
way less intrusive than pat-downs, wands, bomb-sniffing dogs, hand
inspections, and no-fly lists. If we put up with that stuff, why on
earth would we suddenly draw the line at a full body scanner?


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