Tag: travel politics

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Government Study Proves TSA Behavior Profiling is Useless, TSA Expands It Anyway

April 17, 2014 at 3:43 PM | by | Comment (1)

Last fall the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a study showing that TSA's behavior profiling program - creatively named "SPOT" - was useless. The technical language was that the project succeeded in catching bad guys at a rate only "slightly better than chance," but that's GAO code for "worthless."

Naturally people assumed that the program would be scaled back. Instead - per a Washington Times report from last week that made its way around the Internet - TSA has expanded the program to BWI. Because why should a failure, especially a failure that members of Congress blast as "an intrusion into the privacy of the flying public," prevent programs from steamrolling forward?

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Notice Anything New About Airport Rail Security?

April 11, 2014 at 1:08 PM | by | Comments (0)

This is a downer of a Friday story, but it's already getting some traction on travel sites. Plus it's going to be airport security news for the next few weeks. Plus it's probably going to affect your actual, physical airport experience. So you might as well get it on your radar now.

The short version - and you can read longer takes with details and videos here and here - is that the spring issue of Al Qaeda's lead magazine Inspire had a picture of the SFO AirTrain, which they captioned "Stand up, pack your tools of destruction, assemble your bomb, ready the detonation." You can understand why some people are talking about this.

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Video Interlude: Cadbury is Crazy with Airport Dance Fever

April 4, 2014 at 10:15 AM | by | Comments (0)

To the 3 of you who obsessively follow our travel politics posts: apologies, but content is going to become increasingly sparse as we enter the silly season of an off-cycle election. We just can't take it. We're not sure what exact second we snapped, but the story responsible was this "TSA unions support armed guards" nonsense. We've already written extensively about the dishonest bait-and-switch that was used to install TSA unions. We've already written extensively about how TSA tries to protect ill-thought policies with hastily-thrown together band-aids. We've already written extensively about how politicians grandstand against TSA but won't give the agency the resources to do things right.

The convergence of those topics kind of short-circuited our brains. You probably don't want to read about the internal politics of labor plus safety plus electoral considerations. We certainly have no desire to write those posts. It's a shame because the story is actually really important both as a substantive matter and as an illustration of how the way we talk about aiport security is broken. And yet.

Instead, how about a video where someone tries to sell you chocolate by dancing through various parts of an airport?

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Hey, Who's Up for Another Round of New Taxes on Airline Tickets?

March 13, 2014 at 6:35 PM | by | Comments (0)

Last May we gave you the heads up on a particular grating travel politics story, where the Obama administration was trying to use the budget process to hike taxes on airline tickets.

The justification was that increasing how much people paid for airline tickets would increase the number of people who purchased airline tickets. The reasoning went as follows: right now, people don't purchase airline tickets because it takes too long to get through airports; new taxes could pay for more airport workers, which would decrease the amount of time it takes to get through airports; therefore, more taxes would make more people would purchase airline tickets.

We were not kind. In between words and phrases like "giggle-worthy logic" and "stupid," we pointed out that TSA had once floated the exact same theory, except they were going to raise the fees outside the normal budget process. It was shot down despite being trotted out in 2010 and 2011 and then again later in 2011, because it was moronic.

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FBI Can't Believe People are Still Dumb Enough to Point Lasers at Airplanes

February 13, 2014 at 4:49 PM | by | Comments (0)

We did a full blog post about this issue in 2011, and even back then we felt a little torn about whether it was worth writing. There was a legitimate travel politics story at the time, since the FAA had just announced a dedicated system for reporting people who were aiming lasers at aircraft. But it didn't really seem like there was any there there. How stupid do you have to be to aim a laser at the eyes of a pilot who's trying to land a gigantic commercial jet? How many people could we really be talking about?

It turns out that there were almost 4,000 laser strikes reported in 2013, with the average being 11 reported incidents every day. The actual number is thought to be much higher because of under-reporting. Starting in September 2012 and going forward a year, which is how the relevant Justice Department records are kept, five people were convicted in federal court for aiming lasers at airplanes. Another 15 people have cases pending against them.

The FBI is getting very grumpy.

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For Valentine's Day, TSA Focuses on What's Important

February 11, 2014 at 3:53 PM | by | Comments (0)

TSA recently blogged a list of tips for traveling during and around Valentine's Day. Yes to regular and even liquid-filled chocolates, but no to flower vases with water in them, plus a reminder that there are special rules for traveling with wedding dresses. Because wedding dresses and flower vases with water in them could be used to compromise the security of aircraft, you see.

In other news, engineers have discovered a way that hackers can hijack TSA scanning machines to remotely overlay what screeners see with arbitrary images. So if you're a terrorist smuggling a gun through security, and you've got a friend who has gained access to the computer linked to your checkpoint, your friend can cover over the image of your gun with what looks like a pile of socks.

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Vice President Biden: LaGuardia Airport Really Sucks, Doesn't It?

February 7, 2014 at 7:07 PM | by | Comment (1)

This was a very rude thing to say, and Vice President Biden should absolutely apologize. Say what you will about Third World airports, at least most of them have people who are trying to build and grow things. Newark, on the other hand - well, Jaunted has been writing about how much that airport sucks for almost our entire existence. At one point last year United dropped a bunch of money to make it better, and they inevitably failed, on account of how it sucks.

It's not just LaGuardia either. All of New York's airports are awful. JFK has birds flying through the terminals, and so of course some of the seats and certain spots on the carpet get covered in - excuse the vulgarity - actual bird shit. At night the people to birds ratio approaches that of an aviary, and you've got birds picking at the trash. That can't be hygienic. Why won't somebody do something about that?

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Newest Debate Over TSA Still Not Taking Into Account Very Basic Things About TSA

February 3, 2014 at 2:09 PM | by | Comment (1)

Last week saw a good deal of travel politics news - we'll unpack most of it as the dust settles this week - but there was something in particular we wanted to post today, if only because it's kind of aggravating.

The end of last week saw a back-and-forth in Politico between TSA and a TSA ex-agent who wrote an expose confirming every bad stereotype people have about the agency. Neither side comes off particularly well, but what got our attention is how even at the top levels of public debate, people still don't get a very, very fundamental point: you can have lots of very specific rules, and then you get TSA employees who implement stupid regulations, or you can empower TSA employees to 'use common sense,' and then you get douchebags who use the wiggle room to abuse travelers.

It can be one or the other, but - unless you're going to get better TSA agents or abolish TSA completely - you have to choose one.

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Wow. FAA Paperwork Delays May Block Virgin Galactic Debut.

January 30, 2014 at 12:20 PM | by | Comments (0)

Fearless prediction: this is going to get solved before it becomes a problem. There are too many famous people involved, there is too much money at stake, and the optics would be catastrophic. Can you imagine how this would play out in the media? "Washington DC has become so inefficient that it's blocking actual real life we're-living-in-the-future space tourism."

Federal agencies can be cumbersome and individual bureacrats can be petty. But if the FAA actually jams up the launch of a Virgin Galactic space jet - which people say might actually happen - we can finally and safely assume that literally nobody is in charge of anything any more. Seriously. It would look so horrible that we don't understand how anyone is even allowed to go on the record saying it's a possibility.

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Last Week's TSA Hearing In Congress Was Even Sillier Than You'd Expect

January 20, 2014 at 5:01 PM | by | Comments (0)

Not to beat a particularly stupid dead horse, but just one more thing about that silly hearing that Congress held last week with TSA officials. We've repeatedly covered how the overarching debate over airport security is broken: politicians attack TSA for cutting corners, but those same politicians aren't willing to either change the rules (so there are no corners to cut) or increase the agency's funding (so it wouldn't need to cut corners).

We've already posted on one aggravating part of the hearing, which had Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) declaring that TSA agents don't say "please" and "thank you" enough, and so he's going to write legislation sending them to politeness school. He saw security officers telling travelers to do awkward things like take off clothing, and stand in line, and assume various positions, and he thought it would be better if they were nicer about it. But the problem isn't whether agents are polite when they implement poorly conceptualized and even more poorly executed security policies. It's that the security policies are poorly conceptualized and executed.

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There's a Decent Chance Congress is Just Trolling Us with Stupid TSA Ideas

January 17, 2014 at 4:26 PM | by | Comments (0)

The Jaunted policy on travel politics is very straightforward: there is nothing so broken about the experience of getting from one airport to another - whether it be picking a seat or paying for baggage or going through security or even taking off - that Congress can't make it worse.

TSA, for example, is a disaster in hundreds of ways significant and incidental. But give an elected official a chance to address even the smallest of the agency's problems, and they're bound without fail to come up with legislation that falls somewhere in between useless meddling and genuine damage. We actually had to check today's story multiple times before we could convince ourselves it wasn't a parody.

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Travel Politics Battles are Already Shaping Up for the New Year

January 6, 2014 at 1:18 PM | by | Comments (0)

As the first full week of the new kicks off, let's all take a moment and assess what kind of year 2014 is shaping up to be. For those of us on the Jaunted staff, we have our New Year's resolutions, and so we have our little markers and goals already set up. For you guys, we've given you some assignments as well. And as for the United States federal government, we expect they're going to try to fuck up air travel. Just like they always fucking do every fucking year. Seriously. Anything even tangentially related to travel politics is an opportunity for Congress to break travel, and, without exception, they do.

Keep in mind that none of the links up there - which go to stories from 2010, 2012, and 2013 - touch on anything related to the government shutdown or to the sequester. Both of those colossal meltdowns negatively affected tourism, because how could they not, but lawmakers weren't even trying to directly tinker with the travel world. It's when folks from the House, the Senate, and White House get together to try to make the travel industry better that the magic really starts.

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