Chatting Up the TSA

Next time you go to the airport be sure to put on a happy face, even if you’ve been informed that your flight has been delayed by an hour and that you’ll miss all your connections. You’ll need this cheerful fa?ade to make it through the TSA airport security checkpoint.

As if being asked to strip off shoes, coats, belts and other clothing before going through a metal detector and getting your personal belongings x-rayed is not enough, the TSA will begin psychoanalyzing air travelers in 40 major airports next year. TSA screeners, who are not even fully trained law enforcement personnel, let alone professional psychologists, will perform behavior analysis screening on all passengers. The screeners will look for “suspicious” signs that might indicate a passenger could be a terrorist: having dry lips or a throbbing carotid artery (I’m not kidding), failure to make eye contact with or say hello to the screener, or evasive or slow answers to casual questions asked by the screener. Travelers who exhibit such nefarious characteristics will undergo extra physical searches—the infamous “pat down” frisk and bag rummage—and could even face police questioning.” (The Independent Institute)

Ties That Bind?

“The White House is moving to distance itself from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff – who raised thousands for the Bush-Cheney campaign.

…On Wednesday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan announced that President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign will donate $6,000 in contributions linked to Abramoff to the American Heart Association. According to the Republican National Committee, which is handling the distribution, the campaign will donate three $2,000 checks from Abramoff, his wife and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribe, which paid Abramoff tens of millions of dollars in lobbying fees to press lawmakers on gambling issues.

The move follows other top politicos in Washington, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert and former House majority leader Tom DeLay, who have announced plans to donate Abramoff-linked contributions to charity. All told, lawmakers from both political parties have given up nearly $300,000 in contributions with ties to the embattled lobbyist in recent weeks. Bush’s decision, McClellan told reporters Wednesday, was a “typical step” in the wake of Abramoff’s guilty plea on charges that he bribed public officials and their aides in exchange for official favors.

Yet the Bush-Cheney campaign is returning only a fraction of the campaign contributions it received with Abramoff connections. During the 2004 campaign, Abramoff was a top fund-raiser for the Bush re-election effort, raising more than $100,000 for the campaign…” (truthout)

Rotavirus Drugs Deemed Safe and Effective

“Two new vaccines against rotavirus, the leading known cause of deaths from diarrhea among infants around the world, have proved safe and effective in two of the largest clinical trials in the history of medicine.

Studies of the two vaccines, one made by Merck and one by GlaxoSmithKline, are to be published today in The New England Journal of Medicine. Each trial enrolled more than 60,000 infants, in part to avoid the fate that befell the last licensed rotavirus vaccine, which was withdrawn seven years ago after it was blamed for dangerous bowel obstructions in 1 in 10,000 children.” (New York Times )

My Newfound Admiration for Letterman

I don’t tend to like David Letterman, whom I find by turns too smug and too silly. It is very hard to watch him in the face of a very visceral distaste I feel. Yet I am warmed by the forthright stand he took toward Bill O’Reilly the other night, about which the internet is all abuzz. I have heard excerpts on talk radio. This post, from newsbusters.org (“exposing and countering liberal media bias”), emphasizes his criticism of Bush and of Cindy Sheehan’s detractors, but it appears to me that his ire was most reserved for O’Reilly in particular. O’Reilly is such a supreme egotist that I can imagine the thrill of guesting on Letterman set him up for this; he has only himself to blame:

“Displaying a hostility to President Bush and the Iraq war similar to that expressed by Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart, on Tuesday’s Late Show David Letterman went further than I’ve ever heard him in revealing his derision for President Bush’s decision to launch the Iraq war and contempt for anyone who dares to criticize Cindy Sheehan.

Letterman normally tries to make the guest look as good and entertaining as possible. But he greeted FNC’s Bill O’Reilly with disdain. When O’Reilly urged an end to tagging Bush as a “liar,” scolded Cindy Sheehan for calling the insurgents “freedom fighters” and urged people to be “very careful with what we say’ in disparaging others, Letterman took him to task: ‘Well, and you should be very careful with what you say also.’ Letterman demanded: ‘How can you possibly take exception with the motivation and the position of someone like Cindy Sheehan?’ And he tried to discredit O’Reilly’s contention: “Have you lost family members in armed conflict?’ When O’Reilly conceded that ‘no, I have not,’ Letterman castigated him: ‘Well, then you can hardly speak for her, can you?'”

Giant Lizards from Another Star

This collection of poems, stories and essays from Ken Macleod comes out in a limited edition in Feb., 2006. Macleod is an explicitly leftist and Scottish science fiction (etc.) writer;

“His writing has been called “sly cultural commentary”, “subversive and observant” and “an uncommon degree of political awareness”, often with bright ideas and biting wit in the strong Scottish characters reflecting his home country. He writes with a loving respect for the SF greats.”

‘Leftist’, ‘Scottish’, and ‘science fiction writer’ are, needless to say, three things close to my soul and, if at all possible, I will try to get my hands on a copy of this book.