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More Generally: Politics (155)

November 23, 2010

John Locke, Ron Paul, and Airport Security

It has been rather a long time since I wrote on politics. As you can probably imagine, I'm pretty worked up about this whole body scanner business. As recently announced in a post on Homeland Stupidity, Ron Paul and two co-sponsors have introduced a bill in the House which would remove immunity from airport screeners and other federal employees who engage in certain sorts of behavior associated with airport screening. That is, it ensures that the screeners at airports are subject to the same laws regarding battery, sexual assault, child pornography, etc., as everyone else. I think there is something...
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January 5, 2010

How Great is the Threat of Aircraft-Based Terrorism?

In my recent post Preventing Terrorism "At All Costs", I argued that it is necessary to consider the genuine risks of terrorism and balance them against the cost and inconvenience of proposed security measures, rather than merely taking a knee-jerk "anything to make us safer" approach. In the course of the post, I compared the risk of aircraft-based terrorism to other risks we take every day, such as driving on Los Angeles freeways. In a recent post, Big Numbers and Air Travel (HT: Uncommon Priors) on his blog Good Math, Bad Math, Mark Chu-Carroll examines the question of just how risky air travel really is...
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December 31, 2009

Preventing Terrorism "At All Costs"

Insofar as there is any debate about airline security measures at all (and there is not as much as there should be), the debate typically assumes that we ought to prevent terrorism "at all costs". But this is simply false. Last night I saw a segment on the local news here in Johnstown, PA, where a "terrorism expert" (it wasn't clear exactly what his qualifications were) said that we could catch terrorists much more effectively by engaging in religious profiling. Apparently a federal legislator recently said the same thing. What these people are pointing out is something that should be...
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July 9, 2008

R.I.P. Lex Americanorum (Sept. 17 , 1787 - July 9, 2008)

Lex Americanorum, the King of America, passed away this afternoon on the Senate floor. Lex had been ill for some years and White House-ologists in Moscow have long suspected that one or more cabinet members had in fact taken responsibility for most major decisions. The exact identity of this person had not been firmly established, but most experts agree that it is Vice President Dick Cheney. Lex was born on September 17, 1787 and became king shortly thereafter upon election by representatives of the 13 American colonies. Lex was able to survive and maintain power for nearly 221 years...
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July 5, 2007

How Much Personal Data Does Windows Vista Collect?

All of it. IP addresses, web-sites visited, computer name, hardware configuration, software configuration, what kinds of files you open, everything. The Windows Vista EULA apparently provides a non-exhaustive list of 47 Vista components that send data to Microsoft. Other components store personal data on your hard drive. Microsoft says it will release these vast troves of data under the following conditions...
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March 13, 2007

The Northwest to Remain Free?

It will come as little surprise to regular readers that I am not a fan of the Real ID act, a law passed by congress mandating certain standards of identity verification for all state-issued IDs (including drivers' licenses), requiring states to share data collected in this process with the federal government, and requiring that one have such an ID in order to board planes, enter national parks, or enter federal courts (see also the ACLU's FAQ on the subject). The law orders states to come into compliance within three years or not have their IDs accepted by the federal government...
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December 9, 2006

U.S. Congress Outlaws Pretexting (Sort Of)

In my previous post on the MPAA's success in blocking a California anti-pretexting bill, I neglected to mention that California did go on to pass a much narrower bill, which illegalizes the use of pretexting to obtain telephone records. Today, the New York Times is reporting that the Senate has just passed a similar bill (apparently the House passed the bill quite some time ago). Of course, these bills really do not go far enough, but it is something. I don't understand how it can be so difficult to get a stronger bill passed. How is pretexting not a straightforward...
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