Wednesday, September 29, 2004

A Question on Airport Security

As I am flying tomorrow for the umpteenth time, I was wondering: Why won't they let me take my Swiss army knife on the plane?
The issue of air-security, as I understand, began to be high priority after 9-11. But then men who hijacked the planes were only successful in 3 of 4 attempts, as in the fourth attempt the passengers knew the aims of the hijackers. Most often hijackers want the vehicle to dock in a neutral area and then the hostage negotiation team is brought out to free the people aboard. These nuts however, decided to kamikaze into various important buildings. Hence, in the fourth hijacking, when the passengers knew the aims of their assailants, they did not comply. Assuming that, as Hobbes puts it, any man can kill another (with twine, a sharp pencil, etc), the question then becomes not whether or not we should allow box-cutters on planes, but what standard procedure should be for dealing with hijackers. Assuming As that appears to be the case, why can't I bring my Swiss army knife on a plane!

Where have all the interesting people gone?

Long time passing...
It is an old myth that the UofC is running out of interesting classes. I.e. the UofC is just getting let interesting, fewer eccentric intellectuals and more smart kids. Maybe we are entering the eleventh generation? For whatever reason the Hillel BBQ tonight was packed. More people than I have ever seen at Hillel save major events like break fast, or something of that magnitude. Needless to say Oren was not making obnoxious sounds from the basement in failed attempts to con someone out of a foosball game, no Shmuli and Bill arguing about senatorial races in Idaho from the 30’s; just assorted banter. I feel so alienated. Like some big green men and women took me from my home planet and dragged me to a distant Hillel (at say, Penn, or some God-forsaken campus like that) where no one speaks my language.
I am really just coxing Oren to respond with some insult that I am lame or refuse to make friends. But maybe not.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Being Back

I love HP. I love the UofC. Definitely one of the top 10 places in the world. Things I do not like: In my B.A. seminar today we all had to introduce ourselves. Dave starts "I am an intellectual fraud". This part of UofC i do not care for, the 'I am cool because I can use big words and still think that I am not a MIRC (member of the idol rich class)'. Can you spell pretentious (I probably cannot). Sigh. Sniffle. Achu. Hack.
Some people that we thought were not coming back may in fact be back ...?

Friday, September 24, 2004

Monday, September 13, 2004

NYT Mention

So the NYT picked up a bit from my paper in Thursday's paper. Not much, but its a start. The part quoted from Gerald Steinberg. The major issue with the World Bank report is that it wants Israel to open up its borders, labor is secondary (or even tertiary). Well, it is the Times after all.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

with a twi...

So an addendum is that Oren mumbled and didn't speak clearly to the INS agent. It was 2:30 am I was tired and wanted to get home. Although I am sure that Mr. Mcullaugh, or whatever his name was, was a pleasant chap and we could have long drawn out conversations about Brecht, Shaw or some other wonderous topic, at 2:30 am I just wanted to sleep. Oren, fighting the despair that this country might be going to Hell in the proverbial picknic basket, could only manage to mumble. Ladies and Gents, please just speak clearly to the nice INS officials and they will let you merrily on your way.
The moral of the story is: Terrorists don't live in Buffalo... only Lackawanna

Monday, September 06, 2004

Leaving on a Jet Plane, with a Twist

So, a week ago today, I was in Toronto for the wedding of my friend David Levitt. Due to unfortunate circumstances only mildly within my control, I misplaced all of my stuff - my bag, my passport, my ID, my money, my cellphone, really everything except the suit on my back and a Benscher with my name on it.

Now, some of you may not be aware, but apparently Toronto is some sort of foreign country. They have different money there, and people drive like they have nowhere to be. In any case, at some point it struck that I needed to get back back into the US, and that I had no passport. Or driver's license. Or anything. So, as as my custom in such situations, I whined to Zev, and he says he'll take care of it.

So we're driving along some abandoned highway at 3 in the morning, rather exhausted, hoping to get to Buffalo without any trouble. We drive up to the American border, and some INS cop (he had either an Irish or a Scottish name, I don't remember and can't tell the difference anyway) stops us and asks for passports.

I of course, have none. Normally, I would launch into a 2-hour diatribe including my name, place of work, life goals, religious beliefs, and tastes in music - anything to convince the listener of my general decency as a Citizen and Human Being. This works with normal police. But Zev has coached me - apparently, long anxious explanations are a sign of Terrorist Activity, and signal further investigation. So, I say, "I lost mine."

He asks for ID. "Lost, too." Zev established a strict three-word maximum to any reply I make; I was also supposed to speak up, which I forgot to do, but didn't seem to matter too much. The INS guy then asks Zev a series of ten or so questions, including, twice, "Who owns this car?" - to which the answer, both times, was "My mother" (Zev did all the talking.) After that, the cop gave me a look - and let us go on.

This country is going to hell in a handbasket. This was during the RNC, and I was allowed into the country with no ID whatsoever about 6 hours from new york. He didn't even ask any identifying information, except to see if I would answer quickly. The car was not inspected - in Zev's minivan, we could have easily had a bomb of some sort, or drugs for that matter.

Even worse, the next day I had a plane ticket from Buffalo to NYC. I show up at the airport counter (after a failed attempt at getting a temporary ID of some sort from the Police), give them my name and destination, and mention that I have no identifcation with me. The clerk informs me that this won't be a problem, gives me a boarding ticket, and lets me on the plane without any verification at all! He didn't ask what credit card I used, or my age, my SSN, or even details of my itinerary - just let me on the plane. They did do a security check, of course, but they really had no way of knowing I was legally in the country, flying as myself, or paying for my own flight.

Travelling without ID was interesting, and a lot easier than I expected it to be (granted, I was in Canada and not in Mexico.) The Canadian border probably needs to be harder to cross, but that may be pointless; I don't know the economics involved, but there might be too many ways to cross to make blocking criminals etc. feasible. As far as getting on planes, I'm not sure how I feel about that. Requiring identification for any plane flight, whatsoever seems, wrong; that's equivalent to requiring people to carry around ID for normal travel (including just walking on the street, or being a passenger in a car), which this country doesn't do. So someone showing up to a counter at an airport buying tickets should not be asked for identification, and he or she should be able to buy paper tickets for domestic flights, and board them, with a normal security check but without identification. E-tickets, however, rely on identification at the airport to make any sense at all - especially tickets which are supposed to be non-transferable at the time of purchase. It seems like the airlines have a strong economic interest in making sure e-tickets only go to their purchasers - for instance, when people use special discounts or frequent flyer miles.

Later tonight, as I get bored, a post on the Series 7 exam, which I am cramming for.