Posts Tagged ‘terrorism’


July 29, 2013

We always assumed the letter carrier could read our postcards and could notice the return addresses on envelopes. Not that I really suspected them of doing it. They were probably too busy to care. But I never assumed that these things were private. Some items came in plain brown packages so no one would know who was receiving them. Oddly enough, I can’t remember what those items were, but I know I read ads for them.

People talk as if there were a constitutional right to privacy. Aside from it not actually being in the constitution, I don’t think people really thought about it in the terms we do now. Before the invention of railroads, the vast majority of people lived in rural areas where they were well known. Strangers were watched and distrusted. Anonymity existed in cities and large towns, but most people lived in the country. In 1790 in the USA, farmers and other agricultural workers were 90% of the labor force. Local support for farmers probably added a couple of percent. Farming communities needed blacksmiths and harness makers.

People living on farms or in the small supporting communities rarely traveled long distances. Travel was very expensive in both time and money. The result of this was that people didn’t have privacy as to where they were. The chances were high that someone who knew them noticed them.

Anonymity is a modern invention. As long as human hands held the envelope, someone would know who was writing whom. As for telephone information being private by constitutional rule, the telephone was invented long after the constitution was written, and until the mid twentieth century, most phone calls were handled by human operators.

Making the assumption that NSA is telling the truth and they aren’t listening to our phone calls or reading our emails, we have no complaint. It has only been a short time in history when those things were genuinely private. If terrorist plots are foiled by this lack of privacy, it is a small price to pay.


Are we accomplices, part 2

May 18, 2013

Since writing the previous post, I’ve had several discussions with my colleagues about the subject. There are students who game the system. They know how late in the semester they need to attend class to be considered full-time students and use that information. That explains the occasional student who disappears early in the semester and shows up once, much later. It doesn’t happen often, and most probably have innocent explanations, but I’ve changed my mind about the subject.

I will be more aggressive about dropping students. I don’t want to be one of the people who allows students who receive financial aid for education to get the aid, but not the education. Nor do I want to be someone who allows a student with a visa, to get an education, deny that privilege to someone who will actually use the visa as intended. Both financial aid and visas are limited.

I emphatically do not want to be one of the teachers that allows a terrorist to overstay a visa.

Democracy in Libya?

March 5, 2011

The news talked about Gaddafi vs. the rebels who were pro democracy. Really? I just thought they were anti Gaddafi? I wasn’t sure anything else united them. I think it was either wishful thinking or propaganda on the part of the news.

Perhaps the rebels are pro democracy, but they might want an Islamic state. Maybe they want to be in power themselves. They are not stupid enough to commit to anything that would antagonize any allies in their fight against Gaddafi. If the rebels win, then we may find out they are pro democracy, but even calling for elections does not guarantee that. Too many times we have seen one man, one vote, one time.

I hope democracy prevails in Libya. I also would prefer the rebels against Gaddafi win. I just don’t believe these are the same thing.

TSA pat downs and the handicapped

November 28, 2010

My husband is handicapped and goes through the airport in a wheelchair. Every time he passes through security, he gets a pat down. There is a lot of talk about how only small percent of people get pat downs and that we should be grateful to have this security, but that is probably not the voice of people who will get a pat down every time they go through security.

The Americans with Disabilities Act may or may not apply to airport pat downs. TSA will correctly argue that anyone can pretend to be handicapped. This is true, because every able-bodied person is one automobile accident away from needing a wheelchair, even if the need is temporary.

We have two conflicting needs: security and the rights of an increasingly large minority. I am not saying I have answers to this, but we should not ignore the question.

Religion or safety?

July 22, 2010

There are places in the U.S. where it is illegal to wear a ski mask in public. It is also illegal to wear any mask while giving a speech as a reaction to the Ku Klux Klan. I don’t know how these laws are written, but I assume there are reasonable exceptions written in, such as for skiing or just for very cold days. I hope an arrest for wearing a mask on Halloween would result in firing the arresting officer.

There are countries that are considering banning veils covering the face. Although this law is considered anti Muslim by some, this does not have to be viewed as a religious issue. Public safety is partially dependent on our ability to identify people. Security cameras are routinely used to fight crime. Giving a segment of the population the ability to move around without being identifiable, violates the rules that were in place long before 9/11 generated anti Muslim sentiment.


June 30, 2010

I drove through Atlanta, Georgia once at 8 a.m. The day was bright and sunny, the weather was seasonal, and there were no winds, natural disasters, or unusual news. In the eight lanes of traffic  there were only two other cars visible. Nothing unusual was going on, so where was the traffic? It was January 1, New Year’s Day. Most people were asleep.

Elena Kagan is currently being questioned for nomination as part of the Supreme Court nomination process. She was asked where she was last Christmas. The news touted this as a frivolous question.

The handling of the Christmas Day bombing attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was criticized by many. Kagan, as Solicitor General, perhaps should have been involved in the process of getting Abdulmutallab out of the civilian legal system, where he had the right to remain silent, into the hands of military questioners. We are at war and this was an attack. The question was only frivolous if the context is ignored.

McCullough’s Law and Terrorism

March 11, 2010

Years ago we owned a townhouse we rented out. Our first three tenants had a trait that I felt made them likely to be better renters: they all had been landlords. But I am sure there are some people who have been landlords that make terrible renters. This relates to a “law”I invented:

No matter how carefully the members of a group are selected, at least 2% of them are crazy.

Lately there has been news of a blond woman who is a terrorist. She doesn’t look like one, which makes it more frightening. Considering the number of people who don’t fit the image of being a terrorist, it is not really surprising that some of them are actually successfully recruited.

None of this means they shouldn’t profile, but they shouldn’t only profile. Obviously there are going to be more terrorists found if efforts are concentrated on young, Muslim men. But no group should be exempt from random screening. If there is a group that is never searched, the terrorists will concentrate their efforts on recruiting that group. Much as I would like to assume there was some trait that made people immune to the particular kind of characteristics that make one a terrorist there probably isn’t such a trait.