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listen to my words

Archive for April, 2012

Should Not Exist

The TSA, that is.

Of course we’ve already covered that. Or, if we haven’t, we should have.

But seriously, I can’t think of any legitimate, rational reason that the TSA should continue to function and use up taxpayer money.

The screenings have stopped exactly zero terrorist plots, and anything they’ve managed to catch would have been caught by pre-September 11 screening methods.

But yes, I’m writing this as I’m outraged by their behavior regarding a four-year old. I’m going to quote the first-hand account, because it’s key to my point. Read it please.

My two young children, aged four and six, were particularly excited their Grandmother was catching the same flight out of Wichita. Since she lives in California, and we live in Montana, they’ve never had a chance to fly with her. Tired and eager to return home, we began passing through security. My children and I went through without an incident. My Mother, however, had triggered the alarm. She was asked to go through the scanners again, and when the source of the alarm could not be identified she was told to sit aside and await a pat-down. All of this was perfectly routine.

When my Four-year-old daughter noticed her Grandmother, she excitedly ran over to give her a hug, as children often do. They made very brief contact, no longer than a few seconds. The Transportation Security Officers(TSO) who were present responded to this very simple action in the worst way imaginable.

First, a TSO began yelling at my child, and demanded she too must sit down and await a full body pat-down. I was prevented from coming any closer, explaining the situation to her, or consoling her in any way. My daughter, who was dressed in tight leggings, a short sleeve shirt and mary jane shoes, had no pockets, no jacket and nothing in her hands. The TSO refused to let my daughter pass through the scanners once more, to see if she too would set off the alarm. It was implied, several times, that my Mother, in their brief two-second embrace, had passed a handgun to my daughter.

My child, who was obviously terrified, had no idea what was going on, and the TSOs involved still made no attempt to explain it to her. When they spoke to her, it was devoid of any sort of compassion, kindness or respect. They told her she had to come to them, alone, and spread her arms and legs. She screamed, “No! I don’t want to!” then did what any frightened young child might, she ran the opposite direction.

That is when a TSO told me they would shut down the entire airport, cancel all flights, if my daughter was not restrained. It was then they declared my daughter a “high-security-threat”.

Two TSOs were following her and again I was told to have no contact with my child. At this point, I was beyond upset, I disregarded what the TSO had said to me, and I ran to my daughter. I picked her up. I hugged her. I tried to comfort her.

The TSOs were not pleased.

I was forced to set my child down, they brought her into a side room to administer a pat-down, I followed. My sweet four-year-old child was shaking and crying uncontrollably, she did not want to stand still and let strangers touch her. My heart was breaking. I will never forget the look of pure terror on her face. A TSO began repeating that in the past she had “seen a gun in a teddy bear.” The TSO seemed utterly convinced my child was concealing a weapon, as if there was no question about it. Worse still, she was treating my daughter like she understood how dangerous this was, as if my daughter was not only a tool in a terrorist plot, but actually in on it. The TSO loomed over my daughter, with an angry grimace on her face, and ordered her to stop crying. When my scared child could not do so, two TSOs called for backup saying “The suspect is not cooperating.” The suspect, of course, being a frightened child. They treated my daughter no better than if she had been a terrorist.

It was an awful sight.

A third TSO arrived to the scene, and showed no more respect than the first two had given. All three were barking orders at my daughter, telling her to stand still and cease crying. When she did not stop crying on command, they demanded we leave the airport. They claimed they could not safely check my daughter for dangerous items if she was in tears. I will admit, I lost my temper.

Finally, a manager intervened. He determined that my child could, in fact, be cleared through security while crying. I was permitted to hold her while the TSO checked her body. When they found nothing hidden on my daughter, they were forced to let us go, but not until after they had examined my ID and boarding passes for a lengthy amount of time. When we arrived at our gate, I noticed that the TSOs had followed us through the airport. I was told something was wrong with my boarding pass and I would have to show it to them again. Upon seeing the TSO, my daughter was thrown into hysterics. Eventually, we were able to board our flight.

My daughter is very shaken up about this, and has been waking up with nightmares.
What should have been a very minor, routine security check was turned into a horrific ordeal. All of this could easily have been prevented if the TSO involved had used a little bit of compassion and a smidgen of common sense. There is no reason for any child to go through this, and while I completely understand the necessity of tight airport security, I fail to see how harassing a small child will provide safety for anyone.
Michelle Brademeyer

And then the TSA has this which I suppose sort of qualifies as a response:

I’ve seen some headlines stating that TSA Officers accused a 4-year-old child of having a firearm. This wasn’t the case, and I wanted to take a few moments to explain what happened.

TSA has long had a security procedure where if somebody has contact with a person who is undergoing additional screening, they must also undergo additional screening. Why you might ask? You’ve probably heard the old saying that the hand can be faster than eye? Well… that’s the reasoning behind this procedure. There’s always the chance that a prohibited item could be traded off during contact. I’m sure you’ve watched the scene play out in more than one movie where two people collide or shake hands and an item is traded off? Same thing…

We did recently roll out new procedures that reduce the need for pat-downs of children. These new screening procedures include permitting multiple passes through the metal detector and advanced imaging technology to clear any alarms as well as the greater use of explosives trace detection. These changes in protocol will ultimately reduce – though not eliminate – pat-downs of children. But… this is one of those examples where a pat-down of a child was necessary.

It was explained to the family why the pat-down was needed and at no time did our Officers suggest the child was carrying a firearm. We’ve reviewed the incident and determined that our officers followed proper current screening procedures.
Bob Burns, TSA Blog Team

Apparently, the TSA is trying to stop Danny Ocean and his crew from escaping with the loot they heisted from that sleazy casino owner. Guys, “you’ve seen in movies” is a terrible, terrible argument. You know what else I’ve seen in movies? Time Travel. Space slugs that eat space ships capable of faster-than-light travel. Dragons. I believe the chances of any of those things somehow threatening US citizens is so remarkably close to zero that it is zero.

But that’s more a criticism of the structure of their argument. Not the point.

Mr. Burns is adamant that no TSO ever suggested the four-year-old of holding a handgun. That, apparently, is what they feel they need to quibble about.

But if you need to, re-read Ms. Brademeyer’s narrative. She says they implied it. Who am I going to believe here? A mother who is not allowed to be with her child but gets to watch as they grope the four-year-old? Or the civil rights violating agency with a history of poor judgement, even poorer action, and the lack of ability to even justify their own terrible existence? Perhaps they’re both suspect in terms of believability. But I’m going to go with the first-hand report rather than the guy with the job to make an oppressive government organization look a little less terrible.

Other than that, the TSA doesn’t dispute a single fact that Ms. Brademeyer puts forth.

Ok, here’s the thing about first-person accounts. They’re great for historians because they put a lot of context into contemporary events. However, they are almost certainly always embellished, if not exaggerated. Eye witness accounts are almost always faulty. Still the subjective view is valuable, because it clearly illustrates the effect the TSA has on the American people.

But even if we tone down Ms. Brademeyer’s story, we’re still left with TSOs who separated her from her child, did nothing to help console a distraught child and prohibited the child’s mother from the same, and refused to re-scan the child, opting for a pat down.

Oh hey. What’s this that I found on the TSA’s Website?

Security officers will approach children gently and treat them with respect. If a child becomes uncomfortable or upset, security officers will consult parents about the best way to relieve the child’s concern.

and from the same page:

TSA has enacted risk-based checkpoint screening procedures for passengers 12 and under that include: … Allowing multiple passes through the walk through metal detector and advanced imaging technology to clear any alarms on children.

Again, the TSA doesn’t dispute any of the essential, or even most of the ancillary, facts of Ms. Brademeyer’s story. Which states that everything I just quoted from the TSA website was blatantly violated. However, the TSA does claim that they checked on it, and it’s ok because they “determined that our officers followed proper current screening procedures.” Really! Big Charlie who dates the cousin of one of the TSOs told me so.

I’m calling a lie on that one.

You may have noticed that I used the word “terrible” a lot. That’s intentional. The TSA has caused more terror in the hearts of Americans and other innocent air passengers than Bin Ladin ever did or ever could. Bin Ladin never scared me. Angry beyond reason at times. But never terror. My own government? Especially the TSA? Yeah, they terrify me CONSTANTLY.

Update 2012-04-27 13:34
It should surprise no one that my comment on this entry on the TSA Blog was never approved. The comment was an abbreviated form of the ideas expressed in this blog entry. Note, however, that they couldn’t very well pretend that no one said anything. Of 156 comments at this moment, only one expressed any support for the TSA, and it didn’t expend any effort justifying this particular adventure the TSA led us on.

WordPress… Y U No Love Me?

OK, so I’m trying to release this as a theme, but here’s the problem.

Currently, comment_class() add “odd” or “even” to a comment’s class, presumably to enable alternating colors on a list of comments. It’s pretty fail when it comes to threaded comments, though.

  • comment 1
    • first reply to comment 1
      • reply to the reply
    • Second reply to comment 1
  • comment 2

In this example, clearly you’d want comment 1 to be class=”odd” and comment 2 to be class=”even” if you were alternating colors. No dice. comment_class is no respecter of hierarchy or depth.

In this scenario you get:

  • comment 1: class=”odd”
    • first reply to comment 1: class=”even”
      • reply to the reply : class=”odd”
    • Second reply to comment 1: class=”even”
  • comment 2: class=”odd”

Note that comment 1 and comment 2 both get the same class, and therefore if they’re used for styles, they’ll get the same appearance. True, they also get “thread-odd” and “thread-even” (respectively) so you can style on that, but that doesn’t help with first reply and second reply — which both get class=”even”. Only the first level in the hierarchy gets “thread-odd” and “thread-even” so you’ve still got two sequential comments with identical styling.

It would be useful if the “odd” and “even” assignments reset for each level of a thread. Then I could use them in conjunction with their level (which is already assigned by comment_class()) to get approprite styles. So we’d get this:

  • comment 1 (class=”odd thread-odd depth-1″)
    • first reply to comment 1 (class=”odd depth-2″)
      • reply to the reply (class=”odd depth-3″)
    • Second reply to comment 1 (class=”even depth-2″)
  • comment 2 (class=”even thread-even depth-1″)
    • first reply to comment2 (class=”odd depth-2″)

if a depth was an even number, it would have one pattern for odd/even. If the depth was an odd number, then it would have a different pattern for odd/even.

I have had a number of thoughts today for how to fix this so I could get what I wanted. Using jQuery to correct all the classes after it all loaded was one idea. Another was to write my own functions for not only how each comment displays but also for displaying the whole list. In the end, I think the simplest way is to hack the core modules, which means it won’t be going into the distributed version of this theme. Although I might find a simple way to get it all in how I want it without duplicating the entire comment_function.php file.

Anyway, for the curious, this is how I do it. I use the following code to replace WordPress’s get_comment_class() in */includes/comment-template.php

function get_comment_class( $class = ”, $comment_id = null, $post_id = null ) {
  global $comment_alt, $comment_depth, $comment_thread_alt, $mdg_leveltrack, $mdg_lastdepth;
  if (!empty($comment_depth) ) $mdg_lastdepth = $comment_depth; #eric did this
  $comment = get_comment($comment_id);
  $classes = array();
  // Get the comment type (comment, trackback),
  $classes[] = ( empty( $comment->comment_type ) ) ? ‘comment’ : $comment->comment_type;
  // If the comment author has an id (registered), then print the log in name
  if ( $comment->user_id > 0 && $user = get_userdata($comment->user_id) ) {
    // For all registered users, ‘byuser’
    $classes[] = ‘byuser’;
    $classes[] = ‘comment-author-‘ . sanitize_html_class($user->user_nicename, $comment->user_id);
    // For comment authors who are the author of the post
    if ( $post = get_post($post_id) ) {
      if ( $comment->user_id === $post->post_author ) $classes[] = ‘bypostauthor’;
    }
  }
  if ( empty($comment_alt) ) $comment_alt = 0;
  if ( empty($comment_depth) ) $comment_depth = 1;
  if ( empty($comment_thread_alt) ) $comment_thread_alt = 0;
  #Eric’s code starts
  if ( empty($mdg_leveltrack) ) $mdg_leveltrack= array(1=>0, 0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0);
  if ( empty($mdg_lastdepth) ) $mdg_lastdepth = 0;
  if ($mdg_lastdepth < $comment_depth) $mdg_leveltrack[$comment_depth] = 0;
  $mdg_leveltrack[$comment_depth] ++;
  if ($mdg_leveltrack[$comment_depth] % 2) {
    $classes[] = ‘odd’;
    $classes[] = ‘alt’;
  } else {
    $class[] = ‘even’;
  }
  /* end eric’s code, but then he commented out this bit here
  if ( $comment_alt % 2 ) {
    $classes[] = ‘odd’;
    $classes[] = ‘alt’;
  } else {
    $classes[] = ‘even’;
  }*/
  $comment_alt++;
  // Alt for top-level comments
  if ( 1 == $comment_depth ) {
    if ( $comment_thread_alt % 2 ) {
      $classes[] = ‘thread-odd’;
      $classes[] = ‘thread-alt’;
    } else {
      $classes[] = ‘thread-even’;
    }
    $comment_thread_alt++;
  }
  $classes[] = “depth-$comment_depth”;
  if ( !empty($class) ) {
    if ( !is_array( $class ) ) $class = preg_split(‘#\s+#’, $class);
    $classes = array_merge($classes, $class);
  }
  $classes = array_map(‘esc_attr’, $classes);
  return apply_filters(‘comment_class’, $classes, $class, $comment_id, $post_id);
}

The Monkey Duck Cometh

It’s not done, but it almost is. And I needed a real world scenario to finish up the styles anyway — the dummy data sets I’ve found simply didn’t do enough.

But here is is. Monkey Duck Genius. When it’s finished (hopefully, in the next day or so) I’ll be putting it on WP.org for anyone who is interested. In the mean time, I’d love feed back about specific things you’ve noticed need fixing.

Daily Snapshot for April 2, 2012

cleansing the palate, so to speak. Have another daily snapshot.

The Washington Monument

click to embarrass-size

I’m so stupid

So yesterday I fell victim to a practical joke.

I considered pretending that I was participating. It would have worked, and some people may have believed me.

But anyway, I decided honesty was the best policy. A lot of this is motivated by the fact that I was so angry about the joke. Not about being joked, but that the joke had motivated me to righteous, angry blathering and action. And finding out that it was all a falsehood deflated me so badly.

I have emotional problems, and this is the sort of thing that throws me right off track. I usually feel so weary of this sort of thing that I don’t even have time to think about how I should be relieved that I don’t have to participate in another crusade. I get depressed, basically.

So anyway, yesterday’s post was based on fallacious information. I felt so sure of it being true because so many sites were participating in the ruse. I did have a bit of a nagging feeling that it was weird there didn’t appear to be an “official” link to the bill in question. The lesson here is to listen to your nagging doubts and at least look into it.

Anyway, the premise, that Lieberman is introducing a specific horrible bill, was not true. He is into censorship, however. So he’s still not someone I like.

And my other arguments remain valid. Removing our civil liberties is exactly what terrorists want. They don’t do us any good, and it creates a climate they like.

So, take that for what it’s worth.

And, to make sure this doesn’t come off as a “non-apology apology”: I am sorry for spreading misinformation. I felt I had done proper research, but I clearly hadn’t. It was a mistake, and I’m sorry.

Is it Evil? Or just stupid?

Edits on 04/02: crossed out the things that aren’t true, but I thought were because I’m a gullible jackanapes.

Being socially conscious makes me very tired. Extremely tired.

For example. A few weeks ago the Smithsonian began construction on the Museum of African American History and Culture. Yay. But, what they didn’t communicate to anyone was that they were going to shut off all the sidewalks around the block — including the spot where for decades (literally, as in multiples of 10 years) there was a slug line*. So suddenly dozens of people were standing each night on the curb waiting for rides, a mere slip of the foot away from getting flattened by a bus. Everyone agreed that the established location needed to move, but not a single person started doing anything about it. So I stepped up.

As soon as I got the ball rolling, the cretins crawled out of the woodwork. Some thought the five business days to get everyone used to the idea was too long. They started whining about it. Others refused to move. When all was said and done the line finally moved to a safer spot, but I was angry or frustrated with about fifty percent of the people I had previously been blase about.

I was tired. I was glad I wasn’t in politics, and my dim view of humanity as a whole was reaffirmed.

I don’t LIKE having to help fix things. That’s why I don’t like to be involved.

That’s why I was relieved to stumble on to Popehat. They could be angry for me! I’m certain I’ll find quite a bit I don’t agree with them about in the future. But so far, they’ve been angry for plenty of good reasons and said things better than I generally manage to do. Naturally they would most likely be disgusted with my slothful attitude toward activism, but eh, thems the breaks.

Anyway, today I found the hole in my justification. No, not that hole, the other one. NO, the less obvious one.

This one.

It’s not enough to be stupid, criminal, or a complete waste of space to get me riled up enough to try and muster any support for something. You have to also be trying to undo the Constitution.

In case you can’t be bothered to follow the link, or you did, saw that it was more than two paragraphs, and thought “tl;dr” (in which case you probably haven’t gotten this far either), the blog post linked above discusses Senator Joe Lieberman’s latest attempt to subvert the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. To wit, he wants to offer a bill that makes web site owners’ culpable for the content of comments left by readers. It’s not the first time, and likely won’t be the last unless his constituents get a brain cell and don’t re-elect him. The man is not a friend to civil liberties.

Want to read more on it? Here’s an article. And another. And One more. I’m sure there’s enough links from there to get you the information you need, since I already linked the text of the changes.

Guys, this is stupid bad. Almost Protect IP Act stupid bad. Which is why I wonder. Is the man evil? Or just stupid?

One of the fundamental principles I try to apply to all my political discourse is that the other side of an argument is not crazy, stupid, or evil**. Because it is possible to disagree with out one side being one of those. Generally, in modern political discussion, both sides at least one, usually two or more.

But Lieberman… seriously? You want to remove the ability to make anonymous comments on the Internet… to stop the terrorists? I can’t even begin to think of how that logic goes. Or why on earth you think that principle will be remotely confined to anti-terrorism enforcement. So, are you of the opinion that tyranny is a beneficial way to run a republic? Because if you do, the only possible conclusions are that you’re either evil or stupid.

Look, let me set politicians straight on this. Al Qaeda and Bin Ladin made me very angry for several years. But they never struck terror into my heart or mind. I stopped being so angry at them when “if x doesn’t happen than the terrorists win” became an argument that people actually used and “when you’re trying to get things done…” became the justification for the federal government to do whatever the heck they want. At that point, I got angry with the people arguing for our own government to enact oppressive policies.

You know what the terrorists are after? They’re not trying to escape — many of them are suicide bombers. They’re not trying to gain control of our government. They’re trying to make it so our government isn’t free anymore. They’re trying to make it so that we have our own backward thinking mechanisms that keep us from being allowed to travel, wear what we want, and say what we want. Because if that freedom exists in our country, it can “infect” their country.

So what makes the terrorists win? When our own frigging government tells us that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are no more important than toilet paper and that freedom of speech is detrimental to our safety.

You know what? Freedom of speech is probably dangerous — it means we don’t have to agree. And yes, it makes it harder to get things done. That’s what the people who wrote the Constitution intended. It’s supposed to be hard to get things through so you can’t ram a fist full of liberty-stripping bills through Congress without any objection. People, we want it to be difficult for the government to change easily. Maybe a few guilty get away, but it means that thousands of the innocent don’t pointlessly suffer.

So, to finally get to my point. U.S. citizens, it’s time to exercise a few of your civil liberties while you still have them. It’s time once again to write your Senators. Don’t worry about your Representatives, yet. This is a Senate bill, or will be. Lieberman’s chairman of the Homeland Security committee so that should help you sleep better at night. Or not. But write your Senators. You can find their pages by going to the Senate web site and pulling up your state. Tell them what you think of censorship and the destruction of the best communication tool the world has seen so far (I’m talking about the Internet).

I’m not going to explain slug lines. If you don’t know, go over here. — go back

Obvious exceptions are people like Michael Moore and pretty much anyone on Fox’s payroll that has a show with their name in the title. — go back