This is my attempt at blogging. I'm still learning about the blogging world, and this is my own personal study hall.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

TSA and Profiling Part 1

I'm sure this can lead to a whole long series of posts, so let's call this Part 1, on the assumption that there could be a Part 2 and possibly more.

Some people are trying to make the case for racial profiling at airports based on the fact that the TSA's new screening techniques are horrible violations of individual rights, and the idea that racial profiling, as practiced by El Al* would be much better, and that we have been forced to submit to this tyranny because of "PC run amok". I'm sorry, that's false.

I am no fan of the TSA or its screening methods (something for a later post), but it is not (or ought not be) an issue of PC. I'm against straight racial profiling, but I'm not against using El Al's techniques. El Al profiles, but not racially. It's also not an invasive or obstructive process ...that causes major delays. They interview every single passenger, and when someone fits a profile - any profile - of someone that might be a threat (shifty, nervous, no checked baggage, one-way ticket, etc.) they interview them more thoroughly and check their bags by hand. This would also be a more effective method of detecting illegal contraband. And then there are several highly trained, armed and alert - and hidden - air marshals on the aircraft.

Even the head of the New Jersey ACLU has said that only once someone has been determined to be a possible threat, once there is probably cause - and only once there is probably cause (such that a full strip-search would be warranted) - should the full-body scanners be used (ie, as a convenient alternative to a physical strip search).

But you'd have to have people who are properly trained and who are educated beyond a high school level. You also have to have people who love their jobs. It can't be a standard civil-service job; it has to be a smart, highly educated and extensively trained workforce.

Watch this short clip see how ridiculous and ineffective the screening process is (it's the "Adam Savage says, 'WTF, TSA?'" video, in case you've already seen it):

*I do not know for certain that El Al is in fact the entity employing the screeners at Ben Gurion Airport. But this is the way people are addressing the issue, and I'm not about to delve into a whole lengthy research project and explanation into who is or is not responsible for the security protocol in Israel's main airport, So I'll just go with it for now.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Is this a normal election year? Part II

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post criticizing the conventional wisdom as being flawed. I thought that analyzing traditional voter models would give us a false sense of who is likely to vote, and that, therefore, the polls predicting the outcomes of this year's elections were faulty.

I also criticized Nate Silver, from, whom I admired for his success in predicting past races, because, although, he has in the past been one to ignore the conventional wisdom, I felt that, this year, he is only slightly modifying the analysis of the conventional models, rather than relying on better models like he had in other elections.

Yesterday, though, Mr. Silver wrote a great piece, explaining that not only are conventional models are flawed, but how they are flawed, and how that could actually mean a BIGGER Republican landslide than the conventional models have been predicting.

Here's the piece:

He also promises a follow-up piece explaining how this could mean that the Democrats could hold on and stave off a devastating tidal wave of Republican resurgence. I hope that comes today, as I'm very curious to read the other side of this analysis (no, not because I hope the Democrats are successful; I just really am curious). I find Mr. Silver's honesty refreshing, and I wish he and others had been as honest about this faulty polling and data analysis long before this weekend.