Dear TSA: WTF?

This is frustrating…  People – including me – have gone off about the TSA and their ‘porno scanners’; what an invasion of privacy they are, how unsafe they are, and the like.  A judge ordered that the TSA was supposed to hold public comments, so that we could hear from people and experts.  You know, like the fact that the backscatter machines can cause up to 100 cases of cancer per year (and that’s when they’re working properly!)

So finally, the TSA has set up – 19 months later than it was ordered to – a public comment period, scheduled for February 2013.  Get ready, folks!  Unless you like having your ‘nads subjected to radiation or photographed every time you go to the airport.

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Oh racism, my old enemy

So you’ve probably heard about the TSA agent at JFK Airport in New York who didn’t realize his  metal detector was off, right?  If not, have at it – the “exclusive” is over here at the New York Post.

Now I’m no friend of the TSA.  Even when I say something nice about them, I counter it with a criticism, so you know I’m critical of them.  But that’s because of their rude, nasty attitudes and their perceived incompetence.  It has nothing to do with the color of their skin or their ethnic backgrounds.  But as soon as I’d heard about this story, I knew I wanted to follow it.  Why?  Because the TSA agent in question’s name is Alija Abdul Majed.

Whoa… Sounds foreigny and therefore scary, right?  ::facepalm::

Trek on over to the New York Post.  Or if you want, you can read the whole racist-filled rants right here.  I’ve even highlighted the worst of them.  And this was just the first batch; there were more than 100 more to go!

New York Post Racist Comments

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Cover me: I’m about to say something nice about the TSA

It’s not often that I say something nice about the Transportation Safety Administration.  Their usual treatment of individuals is pretty horrid; and I should know since I travel every week.  But I just recently became part of the TSA Pre program – and it’s glorious.

Here in Portland, Oregon, our local airport has joined the TSA Pre™ list of approved airports.  And since I joined myself (as a frequent flier of Alaska Airlines, they joined me up automatically, but only for flights on Alaska), it has taken me no longer than 7 seconds to get through TSA after showing my identification.  It has been glorious!

So if you’re a frequent business traveler, I’d look into it.  It’s so worth the $100 fee.

One note of caution.  When you join TSA Pre™, they will give you a few options.  I chose their Global Entry option, because it made the best sense for me.  Your decision may be different.  But they give you a “Global Entry” identification card, and it’s an official identification from the Department of Homeland Security, and can be used as proper ID.  It can, no matter if a TSA agent refuses it or not.  I fly out of the tiny airport of Prescott, Arizona, and the TSA there refused to accept my Homeland Security ID and wanted my drivers license.

So there you have it.  I did manage to balance some good with some bad, so take that, TSA!  But seriously – join Global Entry.  You’ll definitely be glad you did!  And drop me a line if you have questions.

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When are airports going to learn?

So airlines and airports have suffered through the economic downturn.  And beyond that, they’ve been further punished economically because of companies not doing as many business trips – those higher fare customers have disappeared.

So why is it airports haven’t gotten with the times, to entice business travelers back?  For example, Phoenix Sky Harbor airport has free WiFi, but the terminals are outdated; you basically have to sit on the floor if you want to get an electrical outlet.  And their WiFi (when it works; lately it’s been working only about 70% of the time) is censored; nothing like trying to get to your corporate email when suddenly a Cisco popup says you can’t get to your email because your domain isn’t one that Cisco approves of.

Some of the best airports are the smaller ones.  I remember flying through Albuquerque back in 2006 and they had free WiFi, plus tables with electrical outlets and – get this – chairs!  You didn’t have to sit on the ground!  Portland International has probably 8 to 10 “business centers” that people can use.  And this week I went into the new Terminal 6 at LAX where Alaska Airlines just moved, and saw seats with electrical outlets everywhere.  WiFi wasn’t free, but at least paid WiFi isn’t censored WiFi.

So Airports: If you want to win us business travelers over, do something for us!  I now know I’ll travel through LAX more often than PHX, just because there are more options for us business travelers.

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Backscatter Machine Information

This is pretty incredible.  Mashable.com took on “The Science Behind Airport Body Scanners” and did a pretty good job at explaining them.  It’s a pretty damned good article, and you should read it.  But if you only read one sentence, it’s this:

No conclusive studies have been conducted that confirm that backscatter X-ray security scanners are safe for commercial use.

That right there is reason enough for the traveling public to demand that these dangerous machines be shut down and removed from use.  Never mind the privacy concerns.  Never mind anything else.  These X-ray backscatter systems have not been proven to be safe for the traveling public, and put us all at risk!  The group EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) has sued the TSA to stop these machines from being used.  Maybe we should all get behind them – forcefully!

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Update on Yukari Miyamae

Lots of groups have cropped up on Facebook to help Yukari Miyamae, the woman who “groped back” a TSA agent, and was arrested for sexual assault.  Most importantly, there is a legal defense fund set up for Yukari.  Here it is: http://causewayllc.com/yukaridefense.html

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Turnabout is fair play!

In other words, good for you Yukari Mihamae!

If you haven’t heard of Yukari yet, she turned the tables on the porno grope that the TSA does (and having been through one myself, it would be classified as sexual assault, if it weren’t for the guise of “safety” — and I use that term loosely, based on the failure rate of TSA that has been released).  She groped back at a female TSA agent, grabbing both of the agents breasts.

So she’s arrested, but the TSA can continue this?  Bullshit.

I, myself, went through the enhanced procedure and can tell you – there was definitely fondling – of testicles and penis, among other body parts.  Though, personally, I will take the porno grope over the horrid full body scanners.  Got cancer?  Nope – and I want to keep it that way.

There’s a legal defense fund setup, with information listed in a Facebook fan page.  You can find it by clicking here.

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Something about the TSA’s statement…

Okay, so I went through SeaTac security, where they made 90% of the public go through the porno scanners.  It was the same day that the story came out (on Time.com, so not a fly-by-night thing) about the possible TSA cancer cluster in Boston due to the new porno scanners.  I refused to go through the scanner, even though the TSA tried their line of “It’s safe. Same amount of radiation that’s around you naturally, blah, blah, blah” (which you know is a lie, or we’d all be seeing everyone naked through their clothing in the first place).

So I was told that I would be subject to an additional screening for the new porno-groping that the TSA does.  He pulled me about 6 feet to the left, but still in view of everything going on.

Me: So, I guess you do your new porno grope in full presence of all the other fliers.
TSA: The procedure isn’t new. We’ve been doing it for years.  (Which is a lie.)  If you want, you can have a private screening, but I promise it will be much more invasive (emphasis mine).

It just didn’t sit well with me.  I mean, did the TSA just threaten me?  If I said I wanted a private screening, by this guy’s own admission, it would be much more invasive.

That’s coercion, is it not?

Then again, I put nothing past the TSA anymore.

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New rules for the airlines!

Okay, I know I’ve been under a rock lately, but this is something I’m actually glad to hear about!

Apparently there are five new rules that went into effect April 20th, 2011.  You can read about them at this link.  In a nutshell, they are

  • If they lose your luggage, they have to refund your fees
  • All fees MUST BE CONSPICUOUSLY DISCLOSED!
  • Denied boarding compensation bumped to almost $1,300 in some cases
  • 24 hour grace period on tickets you buy
  • Tarmac delay rules now apply to foreign carriers

Of all of these, I think I like the 24 hour grace period the best.  Why?  Because we’ve all done it.  I’ve made a reservation on a carrier I don’t normally use, then for whatever reason, realize I’ve made a mistake.  They’re all too happy to charge you $150 for that mistake.  Well they can’t do that anymore – as long as you catch it within 24 hours.  Buy a one-way ticket on United, then realize that American will get you there on your original ticket without a change fee?  Cancel United without fees, etc.  It’s pretty awesome – for the consumer.  For the airlines?  Not so much…

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To the douchebag in the Portland airport yesterday

Okay, so there’s a few Portland Airports, and there’s more than a few douchebags in each one.  This one was behind me in the TSA security line yesterday, and held the rank of Captain of one of the larger airlines.

Seems the TSA got a little crazy at the ABC security checkpoint, and was sending people all over the place.  The “First Class/Elite/Crew” line was full up with not only the First Class/Elite/Crew folks, but also everyone from mothers with spastic five year old triplets in need of Ritalin, to Great Granny who enjoys a cushioned ride on the piss-stained wheelchairs while explaining to all that she’s “never been on one of them new-fangled aeroplanes before”.

So this Captain, already pissing people off because he’s cut the line — which I actually support — is making snide comments.  Okay, a man after my own heart.  But he starts going off about the TSA, which again is fine, but not when you start lying about crap.  A TSA agent was nearby, so I asked why they got rid of the “Preferred Traveler” line, which would keep us from stepping in Granny’s piddle puddles when we take off our shoes for X-ray (thank you, moronic shoe bomber!).  Before the TSA agent could respond, the Captain starts badmouthing them.  “Don’t like it? Blame the unions. Unions rules won’t let them open up another lane and made them close the preferred traveler lane here.”  Blah, blah, blah.

Listen Captain Fucktard, I would be VERY careful with the union bashing.  First things, YOU BELONG TO A UNION!  Do the initials ALPA or USAPA mean anything to you?  They’re there to work on YOUR behalf.  Sure, unions gave up a lot during the economic downturn after 9/11/01.  But it would have been worse WITHOUT the union representing you.

Second, get your facts straight.  The TSA is NOT unionized!  Being in a union yourself, you should have known this, but you obviously have your head so far up your ass that your sunglasses have more skidmarks than your underwear.  First off, President Bush, who created the TSA, would not let it be unionized, and threatened to veto any bill sent to him that allowed it.  Hell, just the TALK of unionization derailed the first person President Obama nominated to head the TSA, and is affecting the second person nominated for the job.

So get your head out of your ass, Captain, and get your facts straight.  And next time, remember – you represent your airline when you spout off in line.  Shut your pie hole if you can’t be at least congenial, or travelers like me will know – and AVOID – your airline.

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