Saturday chit-chat

By skepticlawyer

Once again Rafe has done his round-up at Catallaxy Files and Don Arthur has done Missing Link at Troppo, so for a diverse selection of bloggy goodness, do check both out.

In other news, I have seen a few pieces around the interwebs on the new security screenings at US airports, and how they amount to licensed groping-by-government, but Tim Andrews’s piece is the best I’ve read. This security caper is starting to get beyond silly: it’s invasive, expensive and (more to the point) won’t catch any terrorists. Tim notes:

So. Let us get into the details. Under these new rules, travelers have a choice. They can either go through a scanner – one which numerous medical authorities have said have dangerous levels of radiation (Wired notes that “scientists have also expressed concern that radiation from the devices could have long-term health effects on travelers”.) – and one which takes clear photos of them naked (yup, you can see just how big their ‘junk’ is), or be subjected to a “pat down” – a euphemistic expression for a procedure in which TSA rules – and again, this isn’t hyperbole – demand agents feel the crotch of passengers (and, I ought to mention, also thoroughly rub and examine  the breasts if they are female). Some commentators have gone so far to call it sexual molestation – and with some justification. Oh, and think you can opt out? Once you arrive at an airport, if you refuse the naked photography/groping – even if you choose not to board the plane – you can be fined $10,000.

In other news, Lorenzo our resident medievalist does a fabulous review (in two parts, follow his links) of a book that mixes true, false and equivocal claims for the Islamic golden age. It is worth reading for the mass of factual information elegantly assayed, but also to help gain an understanding of the extent to which colonising the past is something of a proxy for colonising other people’s countries (a practice now considered rather infra dig).

As is always the case, do drop any links you particularly like in the comments.


  1. Posted November 20, 2010 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Oh, it gets better. It turns out that the back-scatter X-ray machines are about as likely to kill you as terrorists.

  2. Posted November 20, 2010 at 11:06 am | Permalink (“The Structure of Borders in a Small World”) might be of interest – looking at algorithms for extracting optimal administrative borders based on different sorts of interactions between regions.

    An odd application of computing to politics and history… Calculating Utopia perhaps.

  3. Posted November 20, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the link & flattering words! 🙂

  4. Movius
    Posted November 20, 2010 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    Unrelated to any of the links in the post, but considering that this site is both Australian and skeptical. Is anyone else going to TAM Australia next weekend?

  5. Nick Ferrett
    Posted November 21, 2010 at 4:01 am | Permalink

    As long as they don’t giggle, I don’t really give a shit if they see my package. Won’t submit my wife or son to it though. I wonder if anyone has looked at this from the viewpoint of a new era of American isolationism?

  6. Posted November 21, 2010 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the link and the flattery too 🙂

    On security issues, I often use Israel as a benchmark, since they have serious security issues and if you are doing something obnoxious and silly that the Israelis do not bother with, it is really obnoxious and silly. And the Israelis do airport security checks completely differently.

    A friend has a theory that the Americans are just bad at bureaucracy, which helps encourage the high level of scepticism among Americans about government.

  7. Posted November 21, 2010 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    My server provider had a power outage this afternoon, which is why all the Ozblogistan sites were down.

  8. derrida derider
    Posted November 22, 2010 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    OT, but Lorenzo is right about Americans. They have an equilibrium where their best & brightest go into business – on the Continent the best & brightest go into government. In turn, this means that American government is poor, and Continental business is poor, which means of course that their best & brightest etc …

    I’ve often thought this phenomenon accounts for big government’s unpopularity in the US, and big business’ unpopularity in Europe.

  9. Posted November 22, 2010 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    [email protected] Which also encourages the use of prominent businesspersons in government in the US in a way you just don’t see in Europe,

  10. Posted November 22, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    DD – fear not, it’s an open thread. You can discuss any topic you like!

  11. Posted November 22, 2010 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    I had to share: the funniest (because it is true) political comment I have seen in a while:

    Because Greens grow best in concrete.

    It is also fascinating, watching folk who, not so long ago, would have either agreed with, or been sympathetic to, the notion that science is a patriarchal Western discourse agree on the absolute authority of climate science. (Note, this is a comment on attitudes to science, not the dreaded climate issue.)

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