No Runny Eggs

The repository of one hard-boiled egg from the south suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (and the occassional guest-blogger). The ramblings within may or may not offend, shock and awe you, but they are what I (or my guest-bloggers) think.

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Archive for the 'Free Shoebox' Category

November 19, 2010

In Defense of the TSA

by @ 15:10. Filed under Free Shoebox, Transportation.

In recent weeks, the TSA has evolved from being the answer to jokes about government ineptness to the leading face on America’s Most Wanted due to activities that are at best, border line criminal. The change in notoriety is a result of the TSA’s deployment of the back scatter X-ray machines combined with new standard operating procedures. The new SOPs have TSA agents doing “aggressive” pat downs to anyone who does not pass through “normal” screening. With increasing cries from the public about “sexual harassment,” several airports are now weighing whether to exercise their “opt out option” which would terminate the TSA and have security provided by a private firm at the opting airport. While I’m all for shrinking government and privatization of government services, allowing individual privatization of airport security will not solve the customer service issue and in fact, will make it worse.

First, my bona fides: For several years prior to and subsequent to 9/11, I was one of Northwest Airlines most beloved customers. Don’t be confused, while I paid lots of money for lots of flights on NWA, for which they loved me, I never once saw any indication of their appreciation. NWA employees never showed any favoritism to those of us who contributed most to their livelihood. They sneered and snarled at coach and first class customers equally. But, I digress. While my travel had dropped off for a few years, I again became a most beloved customer this year with Southwest Airlines….and they do love me!

As further bona fides, I’ve had my issues with the TSA. For those who don’t regularly follow the blog you can check out some of my fun here, here, here, and here.

I give you this list of bonafides so you know I have/do travel alot and that I’m not a lover of the mental vacuity that is the TSA.

So why am I defending the TSA?

Prior to 9/11, traveling by air, while not glamorous, was easy. I remember many a trip where I would get to the airport 25 minutes before departure and made the flight with the plane door grazing my backside as it closed. Of course, that all changed with 9/11.

Security procedures implemented post 9/11, were challenging. Lack of equipment, buildings that weren’t designed for large holding areas and confusing rules were all part of the challenges for the first weeks and months following 9/11. Additionally, you might remember that while the TSA was officially formed shortly after 9/11, it was private security companies that actually performed the airport screening while the TSA staffed up. It’s this last issue that concerns me with the cries for abandoning the TSA.

I believe an honest assessment of the year that private companies were providing airport security, would be hard pressed to find that “customer service” was any better than it was/is with the TSA using the same set of enforcement methods. In fact, my personal experience was that along with a bunch of people with Barney Fife kinds of attitudes, I was additionally subjected to security procedures that varied by airport. Each security company was interpreting the TSA rules and applying them in a fashion they determined appropriate. These variances not only caused high levels of frustration with the flying public but also had the impact of slowing the screening process as there wasn’t a routine that you could always depend on or prepare for. Cattle move in an orderly fashion when they know what to expect. Spook them or cause uncertainty, and it’s very hard to get them to move through the shoots.

My point is not that I support the TSA’s aggressive, personally violating tactics. While I’m always a supporter of outsourcing all government activities that can be done by private enterprise, I don’t believe replacing the TSA with private security firms will improve the customer friendliness. Iit will however, lead to an inconsistent enforcement of policies that the TSA itself can’t agree on.

The problem with airport security is not “who” is doing the security but “what” the security measures are. Having a private company employee grab my crotch (not to be confused with viewing my crotch for which I’m on record as being for,) makes me feel no less assaulted than having a government employee grab my crotch. In my mind, blowing TSA employees out of airport security may feel good (pun intended) but it would have no effect on the user experience without changing the mindset of the idiots who refuse to use proven methods including profiling rather than getting their jollies from groping elderly, Scandinavian descended, women.

Improving the security process has little to do with who is doing the process and everything to do with who the process is being done to. Until Congress grows a pair (easily verified by walking them each through a backscatter x-ray) and decides to not kowtow to the ACLU, we can expect an ever increasing loss of privacy that will be veiled under “increased security.”

Maybe it’s my age but I don’t have fantasies about having sex acts done to me in public. On the other hand, Congress has been screwing us for so long, I don’t think they consider public sex abherent behavior.

August 20, 2010

Free Shoebox – at least his genitals!

by @ 6:26. Filed under Free Shoebox.

Hey, hey, ho, ho, Shoebox should be free to go!

Yes, I’m traveling again. Actually, it’s the first time in an airport since the Shoe family relocated to Kentucky. This morning finds me enjoying the hospitality of the TSA at Kansas City International (MCI).

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of passing through MCI, let me set the scene. MCI was built long before anyone ever worried about members of the “religion of piece” flying airplanes where they shouldn’t be flown. MCI has 3 separate half moon shaped terminals which were great in their day. However, since the addition of security walls, checkpoints etc., it now resembles a human version of a habitrail!

I got to the airport well in advance of my flight and was greeted with my first experience with a backscatter X-ray. Yes, this is the X-ray that is all the rage. Yes, this is the X-ray that takes images that shows more than just metal in your pocket! Yes, this is the X-ray that TSA claimed they do not keep the images of pseudo naked people. Yes, this is the X-ray that TSA has been forced to admit that they do keep images of pseudo naked people.

As I’ve said before, I have no personal issue with the backscatter technology and the images the TSA does or doesn’t keep. This is likely a guy thing but I figure if you can see my genitals while my clothes are on, that’s OK!

So, I head through security and towards the backscatter X-ray. As I get to the stainless steel tables where I normally take all the metal out of my pockets, remove my shoes, liquids and electronics, I am greeted by a TSA employee who informs us that they are now using a “new security system.” He goes on to inform us that this new fangled security system that is costing gross millions of dollars to deploy, is no longer satisfied with just having shoes, metal, liquids and electronics removed. Nope, this new fangled thing is so advanced that you now have to empty every last item out of your pockets; paper, vitamin pills etc…and your belt! If you don’t, I was informed, you will be patted down!

Yup, that’s right; the newest the TSA has to offer for security, the backscatter, a technology that can take a photo of my genitals without a microscope, can’t tell the difference between a piece of paper and something that could be used to threaten aircraft saftey!

Nice job TSA! You’ve taken a process that was inconvenient at best, and made it dehumanizing. You’ve inserted new “better security” and once again in the process, managed to make it further impacting on the public you serve while arguably not making a lick of difference in air security. Nice job TSA!

As an aside…do you know what you call 100,000 government employees at the bottom of the ocean?
A: A good start!

February 2, 2010

Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Shoebox is Now Free To Go!

by @ 5:21. Filed under Free Shoebox.

I came home from work and found a letter envelope from Homeland Security. Not sure that I really wanted to know the answer, I opened the envelope and found the following letter:

A few observations:

  • I didn’t “may have experienced” anything!  I did experience it!  They make it sound like I’m some tin foil hat type reporting that I’ve been abducted by aliens!
  • “DHS cannot ensure your travel will always be delay-free…For instance, an airline might still require a brief period of time to comply with identity verification requirements prior to issuing a boarding pass”- Huh?  Who’s driving the bus?  No wonder people get caught for no apparent reason!  Multiple bureaucracies trying to align their methods, procedures and databases.  Oh, yeah, that’s sure to be a smooth running process!
  • “Based on our analysis of those persons who have applied for redress through DHS TRIP, more than 99 percent are not on a Federal watch list.”  You must be kidding!  The program that is supposed to be ensuring our air safety has a 99 percent false positive?  With that high of a false positive, how many positives (people who should be on the list) do you think they are missing?  I guess this explains all the stories of grannies and six year olds being frisked and taken aside by airport TSA!

I’ve spent a considerable amount of my career involved with interactions with customers.  If one of my staff brought this letter to me and said they were about to send it to a customer, my reaction would be, “Are you nuts?  Even if it’s true, why would you be sending a letter to a customer telling them we’re incapable of doing our job?”  I would follow that up with, “If this is true, we have a lot of work to do!  We’re starting today and not stopping until we have a process that we can stand behind that is efficient and for which we can tell our customers how, what and why we are doing what we are doing!”

I’ll be flying again within the next couple of weeks.  I’ll let you know if any of this gobbledygook actually translates to “I can fly” or whether I’ll be again relying on my Peter Pan happy thought to provide air transport!

Stay tuned.

January 26, 2010

Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Shoebox should be freer to go (Update)

by @ 9:56. Filed under Free Shoebox, Miscellaneous.

Hey, guess what? The DHS recognizes my existence!

At day 22 of my captivity, the DHS now says that they have all the information they need to make a determination of whether I am who I say I am!

You’ll love this:

We are currently reviewing the submission to determine if the delays are caused by incorrect information or mistaken identity. We will also coordinate with other Federal Agencies as appropriate to make this determination and to correct any errors.

“If” the delays are caused by incorrect information or mistaken identity? Damn right they are!

Stay tuned. I suspect I’ll be getting a friendly check in from the IRS next!

January 19, 2010

Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, What? Wait a Minute!

by @ 13:29. Filed under Free Shoebox, Miscellaneous.

I’ve got to travel by commercial air again this week. I’ve got to be in Louisville tomorrow.

After fuming a couple more days over the “you’re nobody to us, go away” response I got from the TSA, I decided to see if I could get some help from my Congresscritter. I sat down and wrote a detailed, factual account of the travelous interruptus that I have contracted from the TSA. I even remembered an important point that I had previously forgotten.

Remember back after 9/11 when the TSA (or what ever they were called then) had some customer focus and was actually was looking for a way to make the lines quicker? Well, one of the things they trialed was a machine that did a retina and fingerprint match. Because I was traveling about 125K miles per year, I applied for the program. Part of the process for the program was that they had to do a background check on you along with capturing your retina and fingerprint. Guess what, I was accepted. So, at least at that time, I wasn’t a security risk!

I finished my letter, had the letter all printed, stuffed in an envelope, stamped and finished with a return address. And then, something odd happened.

I woke up this morning, less than 24 hours from the departure of my flight. While I was sure I knew what would happen, I went to the NWA web site and attempted to get my boarding pass. To my great surprise, I got a boarding pass. No muss no fuss! So now what? I guess there are now one of a few explanations:

1. NWA hasn’t gotten the TSA’s message.
2. NWA still has my security clearance on file from 8 years ago (I think that previous program was sponsored by the various airlines)
3. Only UAL thinks I’m a security risk
4. Just as magically as I became a security risk, the TSA has decided I’m no longer one.

I don’t know what to make of this. I hope that whatever works today will work again on Friday when I return home. If it does, my answer, short term, is easy; as much as I hate to admit it, I’ll fly NWA

January 18, 2010

I Don’t Have The Right Tools

by @ 5:48. Filed under Free Shoebox.

You’ve got to love this opening paragraph:

A big reason why the government is inefficient and ineffective is because Washington has outdated technology, with federal workers having better computers at home than in the office.

The paragraph comes from this articlein which Peter Orszag claims that a significant reason for ineffective and inefficient government services is that their computers aren’t and other technology aren’t up to the latest standards.

You may have heard about my recent challenges with a particularly intrusive government agency.  It turns out they actually have a process for resolving my “problem.”  Step one was to fill out an internet form giving them basic information about myself, information about when and where I ceased to be able to fly freely and a couple of other items.  They then asked for me to send in COPIES of my passport and drivers license.  On their website they tell you VERY clearly that if they don’t receive your copies within 30 days, your file will be dumped and you will have to start the process all over again.

I had send in my documents about 12 days ago.  I had been checking their website daily.  I put in my case number and kept getting a message that they had not yet received my documents.  They also give you the option of emailing your information.  Because I hadn’t heard anything on the USPS version and I had already burned more than a third of my 30 days, I emailed the information. 

Two days went by and still they were not showing that they had received my information.  Assuming they had received it but hadn’t started working on it yet, and concerned that they at least acknowledge receipt before 30 days passed, I sent them an email stating when I had sent my information and asked if they could confirm receipt of my information.  The email was cordial and respectful.

The next day I got an email response.  This is what I received:

We received your submission. Documents are processed in the order of receipt and remain in a “pending paperwork” status until they have been reviewed and verified as complete.  No further action by you is required at this time. To that end, please do not resend. The website will not be updated until your documents have been reviewed by the triage team. Moreover, the message will not change until the documents are uploaded from the holding queue. Your request for redress will be reviewed and you will receive a final determination in writing. Reviews of requests for redress take a minimum of 30 business days.

If I may paraphrase:

Hey schlub, we received your stuff.  We’ll get to it when we’re good and ready.  However, you’ll have to guess as to whether we think you’ve sent us the right stuff or not.  We will not correspond with you until we make a unilateral decision and tell you whether you will ever again fly inconvenienced.  We won’t tell you what the normal expectation of time frame is because we are the government and have no expectations of accomplishing anything within a “normal” time frame.  What we can tell you is you will be inconvenienced a minimum of 6 weeks from the time that we decide to even start a review of your case!

Piss off!

The Government!

It’s probably just me but it would seem that a nice note saying “thanks for your inquiry.  We have received your documentation” and an update on their website indicating such, would have gone a long way to making me think these folks were actually serious about my information and serious about attempting to resolve my situation.  I would also think that resolving “he is who he says he is” issues like mine shouldn’t take more than a very few weeks.

Notice that my suggestions would improve both the effectiveness and the efficiency for both the agency and myself.  I’ll also point out that none of this requires anymore technology than the agency has available to them today.  In fact, I could step them back to 386 technology and do what I’ve suggested. 

For this particular agency to improve both their effectiveness and efficiency, no improved technology is required.  The only thing required is to use their brains rather than their CYA manual and they could improve themselves dramatically.

I know, I know, it’s not the people, it’s their tools!

January 14, 2010

You Are Not Alone!

by @ 14:00. Filed under Free Shoebox.

Well, at least I’m not.  Get this:

NJ Boy, 8, On Terrorism Watch List

 

Cub Scout Mikey Hicks Shares Same Name Of Person Who Has Drawn Suspicion Of Homeland Security Department

Oh, you’ll love this part:

His mother tells The New York Times she sensed trouble when her son was a baby and she couldn’t get a seat for him at a Florida airport. She says airline officials explained his name “was on the list.”

He was patted down as a 2-years-old at Newark Liberty International Airport.

Can someone explain to me how anything at the TSA qualifies as “intelligence services” when time and again they prove to use no “intelligence” in how they apply their rules?

The article does provide some good news:

Transportation Security Administration spokesman James Fotenos says in the coming months, the agency will cross-check names with birth dates and gender.

WARNING:  Next segment NOT SAFE FOR WORK!

Are you F$#*&ing kidding me?  These morons haven’t been able to cross reference their list to something as simple as a birth date and gender?????  Shit, Disney knows my birth date, sex, the age of my children, my preferences in lodging.  Google is able to gather more information on me than the largest domestic security organization ever known to the United States!

The government who is unable to match my name, birth date and sex (Hello, state department?  Yeah, have you issued a passport for this dude in Minnesota?  You have?  Great, could I verify the birth date and sex we have for him?  Huh, that’s what we had too!) is telling us that keeping track of the voluminous mountain of health care records for every single American and determining mandates for precise, successful treatments for every variation of malady is as easy as snapping their fingers!

In the words of H/T Chrisfromracine:  Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot!

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