Tag: Politics TravelView All Tags
Washington, D.C. is rife with scandals over how various branches of the government have been violating people's privacy and security. Whether it's the IRS targeting conservative groups or the Department of Justice monitoring journalists, it appears that federal agencies have been given vast powers to collect information and they're not very good at holding on to that information.
So naturally, Congress has chosen this week to add a provision to the new immigration bill that requires all non-U.S. citizens to be fingerprinted when flying out of the U.S.'s 30 busiest airports.
Because if there's anything that American politicians are good at generating, it's irony.
Sigh.This happened two weeks ago, broke earlier this week, and is now winding its way through the usual blogs and forums run by the usual mix of well-meaning libertarians and conspiracy theory nutjobs.
An Italian woman was making her way through Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport and was standing in the baggage claim area. The airport's bomb-sniffing dog apparently decided that the woman needed to be bitten, so it bit her.
How hard the dog actually bit her has been a subject of open debate. EMS personnel on the scene said it "looked like a scratch." She says that there was bleeding and the bruise afterward was the size of her hand. You can judge for yourself who's telling the truth by looking at the picture here. Try not to be eating food when you look at it though, because it's actually kind of horrific.
Travel Politics / Politics Travel / TSA / Airport Security / Airline Security / Naked Travel / → All Tags
This is without a doubt the least sexy naked travel post that we've ever blogged. John Brennan is a Portlander with what appears to be a libertarian streak. Last April he was going through a TSA checkpoint when officers detected nitrates on his clothing. In order to demonstrate that he was not in fact carrying explosives, Brennan got totally naked. Problem? Solution.
He was of course immediately charged with violating local indecency laws, because seriously, he got really naked (NSFW, obviously). Those charges were promptly slapped down by a judge. We have a Constitution in this country, and that Constitution entitles you to protest against the government in all kinds of interesting ways, and those ways apparently include being naked.
In 2011 TSA was ordered by a judge to follow the law and solicit public comments on full body scanners. They kind of sort of ignored that order. Since that's not a thing that people are allowed to do with court orders, in 2012 the agency was again ordered to solicit comments. Now it's May 2013, and finally TSA has opened up a webpage to get the public's input. So the next time it takes you an hour to get through an airport security line, you can feel better knowing that it's not just security. They're slow at everything.
Anyway, there have already been 3,000 comments about the scanners. You can add your own. They are... oh, let's go with entertaining.
You kids might not remember this, but a few years ago Congress wanted to tax foreign tourists in order to increase foreign tourism. The deeply moronic public theory was to take money from tourists, then use that money to promote tourism, then wait around for all the tourists to start flooding in. In actuality it was a way to drive travelers to Las Vegas restaurants and hotels and away from other parts of the country, all done at the expense of tourists who just wanted to come to the United States. Congress ended up passing that legislation and the President ended up signing it, by the way.
Fast forward to the 2014 budget submitted by President Obama to Congress. It looks to make air travel better by taxing air travel more. The giggle-worthy logic begins with the idea that getting through an airport takes a really long time right now because there aren't enough workers and infrastructure, and that's depressing travel. But if you tax travelers, the reasoning goes, you'll be able to put that money into airports. Airports will become better, more people will want to use them, and magic happens.
Congress's emergency fix to sequestrationthe one we told you about earlier this week, where they let the FAA off the hookis having an interesting effect on travel journalism. Specifically, it's causing journalists to write about travel. Even more specifically, it's causing journalists to write about travel politics. We already have a very firm opinion on what happens when Congress starts to tinker inside the travel industry. But it's always nice to have details.
For instance, a Bloomberg politics blogger was very much not happy about Congress's fix ("erupted in fury," "appalling," "even more self-serving than you probably imagined," etc). So like any good politics blogger, he decided to question the motives of the politicians who voted for it. It turns out that U.S. Senators and Representatives fly a lot, and so there.
The post is a little bit paint-by-numbersCongress gets perks, those perks cost money, be outraged!but it's fine as far as it goes. There's a genre, the blogger met genre expectations, whatever.
Travel Politics / Politics Travel / TSA / Delays / Sequester / FAA / → All Tags
Who wants to talk about travel politics on a Monday? And not just travel politics, but sequestration? And not just sequestration, but really insidery legislative fixes to how budget shortfalls are being implemented? We're excited too. Thank you, U.S. Congress for choosing the end of last week to send a measure to the White House about how the FAA can move money around to avoid furloughs. Awesome timing.
A quick recap of how we got here: Sequestration happened, and then the White House tried to demonstrate that it was disastrous by emphasizing popular stuff that was getting closed down. They started with White House tours, but that backfird spectacularly. Then they tried to highlight TSA delays, but those claims turned out to be not really credible. Then they moved on to talking about the FAAair traffic disasters, because FAA workers would have to go on furloughs, because sequestration!
TSA / Airline Security / Airplane Security / Travel Politics / Politics Travel / Full-Body Scanners / → All Tags
In 2011 the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, DC ordered TSA to hold hearings regarding the rollout of their full-body scanners. The judges' ruling was fairly straightforward: federal agencies are supposed to hold hearings on issues like this one, and TSA hadn't held any hearings, so you know?
In July 2012 we reported that TSA had yet to hold the hearings, and was being hauled back into court to explain why. In August we followed up to note that they were indeed in court trying to defend themselves. In September TSA explained that they wouldn't be holding meetings any time soon, because fuck you that's why.
Travel Politics / Politics Travel / TSA / Airport Security / Airline Security / Texas / Texas Travel / → All Tags
As they'll be more than glad to tell you (at length) Texans are a freedom loving people. However sometimes however ardor for personal liberty goes a little farther than what good sense, or political reality, or federal law might advise. This is one of those times.
You'll recall that in March 2011 we openly ridiculed Texas lawmakers for introducing a series of bills that would have criminalized various TSA measures, from invasive pat-downs to full-body scans. We called the entire spectacle a "publicity stunt" and predicted that it would quickly die. Within a few weeks, and for a wide range of reasons, it had indeed died. Then a year later Rep. David Simpson of Longview introduced a bill that would have merely criminalized "inappropriate touching" by TSA. It too, predictably, failed to become a real thing.
Apparently now it's back. Rep. Simpson seems to believe that travel politics bloggers don't have enough easy content, and he's eager to help. God bless Rep. Simpson. The rest of you should be following his example and hooking us up, rather than scoffing and rolling your eyes like you're obviously doing right now.
In late February Dennis Rodman traveled to North Korea, a hellish country so batshit crazy that its President for eternity has been dead for almost 20 years. For providing a propaganda boon to North Korean leaderswho routinely torture and starve their citizensRodman was roundly and justifiably criticized [trigger warning]. After Rodman left, North Korea put the region on a path that now risks actual nuclear war.
Evaluating the controversy, Beyonce and Jay-Z apparently said to themselves "inserting himself into a hopelessly complicated, politically tangled geopolitical controversy worked out really well for Rodman; let's celebrate our wedding anniversary in Cuba!"
Remember a few years ago when TSA officials moved to unionize their workers, and then we expressed concerns to the effect that unions might protect deadbeat screeners, then TSA said of course that wouldn't be allowed to happen, then we debunked their logic, then TSA unionized anyway? And then remember that other time a little later, when 36 TSA workers got fired from Honolulu International Airport because they failed to scan bags for explosives, and then unions rushed in to protect them?
You'll be happy to know that one of those employees - a manager named Raymond Ware - was reinstated after a lengthy challenge. He's getting his job back plus back pay.
This can't still be going on. There's no way this is still going on, right? There can't still be debates taking place over whether sequestrations will crush airline securitywith the sides being yes and no and why the hell is this even a thingcan there be?
Come on. The latest news involves having the FAA shut down 149 "federal contract" air traffic control towers on April 7. The agency was originally going to shut down 189 towers but was convinced to spare an addition 40 due to of safety considerations (read: the airports were in districts represented by powerful members of Congress or the towers were staffed by government union employees).