In 1995 a happy convergence of events gave me the opportunity to go to Hawaii to meet up with my wife who was returning from an international business trip. I met up with her in Honolulu and, after spending a day and a night on Oahu, we caught an inter-island flight to Maui where we would spend a week. In the days to come, I would learn of a letter written by Samuel Clemmens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, regarding his own visit to the Hawaiian islands. His words summed up perfectly my feelings about the place:
No alien land in all the world has any deep, strong charm for me but that one; no other land could so longingly and beseechingly haunt me, sleeping and waking, through half a lifetime, as that one has done.
I understand Twain’s thoughts on the matter – the place continues to haunt my dreams, too. I’ve kept up with matters going on in Hawaii as much as the distance allows. So it is with great sadness that I read this morning that one of the facets of that trip, my inter-island flight on Aloha Airlines, will continue on only as a ghost in my memory. Aloha has announced that it will shut down after today. I’ll leave them to tell the tale themselves but I will join in their farewell words:
Thank you, Aloha, and farewell: Mahalo – Aloha Oe…
In my day job, I design and implement networks, many with security requirements well beyond the typical corporate enterprise network. One of the things that goes into the design phase is the concept that you don’t allow components of your security apparatus to become compromised and then still integrate them into the network. You maintain their integrity by confirming that the custody of those components (whether we’re talking about physical devices or system configurations) remains in your control. So it was with a sinking feeling that I read Wednesday that the US Government was outsourcing the printing and assembly of our latest, high-tech passports to a foreign company.
Well, it just gets better. The Washington Times report is a series of 3 reports by Bill Gertz. Not only has the GPO outsourced the printing of our passports – supposedly the gold standard of identification papers – to foreign companies, they racked up some pretty impressive profits from the State Department in doing so. “Impressive” comes out to about $100 million, in this case – not bad for a government agency prohibited by law from generating a profit. When they found themselves with that kind of cash, they started handing out bonuses to managers, sending people on trips, and – according to the story – having $10,000-a-pop pictures taken of the GPO’s boss.
Again, of principle concern to me is the security of the document production process. It was already bad enough that they were having a company in Thailand do the assembly of the documents. (If you’ve had a passport issued since 2005, by the way, then your identification data was sent overseas to be assembled into the document, bear in mind.) Even worse is the revelation that the company tasked with producing the RFID tags for the passports admitted in a court document back in October that the technology for their product had been stolen by the Chinese.
But security, not management, is the heart of any story concerning the key identity document of the United States. Here, there were disastrous, almost incomprehensible failures. How many Americans realize that U.S. passports and their components travel a production process that spans the globe — from the Netherlands to Thailand and back to the United States — which is plagued with critical security gaps? How many realize that U.S. authorities purposely declined to manufacture the most critical U.S. identity document inside the United States for technical reasons, risking infiltration, theft and crisis outside U.S. borders? How many understand the danger in the event that blank passports or high-tech passport components are stolen or transferred to terrorists or spies?
Some of this has already happened. The new high-tech U.S. passports are fitted with wire Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) antennae at a factory in Ayutthana, Thailand. The assembler and patent-holder, Netherlands-based Smartrac Technology Ltd., “divulged in an October 2007 court filing in The Hague that China had stolen its patented chip technology for e-passport chips.” Another Communist Chinese espionage coup.
(Emphasis mine.) Someone over there is going to have to explain to me how such security lapses have not rendered the entire effort invalid now that a government known to be hostile to American interests has compromised our document security methods. Follow-up stories in the Washington Times have reported that members of Congress and Secretary Rice are all now seriously concerned over the apparent security problem are are going to look into it. Yes, you folks go do that. Sooner would be better. And while you’re looking into it, perhaps you can reconsider the thought of sending this stuff overseas. There are plenty of folks in the US who would love the chance to do that job.
Please have a look at this picture of a CCW holster and tell me: is this weapon sitting there in the cocked position in this “inside-waist-band” holster? Would you be comfortable with this?
Americans believe the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution is referring to a right held by individuals, not a collective right held conditionally to membership in a state militia, according to a recent Gallup poll. Of those responding, 73% say the Amendment refers to an individual right, a rock-solid majority. When respondents are split out by whether or not they own a gun, gun owners are nearly unanimous in this belief (91%) but even non-owners come back with a majority (63%).
Thanks to The Loudoun Scoop I saw an article in Leesburg Today about corridor studies being completed here in Loudoun. One of the studies is dealing with the backups that occur on Route 28 heading to the Waxpool road exit. That’s a daily event and it definitely warrants study since the whole point of the interchange build-out to begin with was to improve traffic flow. I have thoughts about that but that’s going to wait for another post. Today’s little outrage comes courtesy of the other corridor study, the one dealing with safety issues on Algonkian Parkway.
Drivers along Algonkian Parkway in eastern Loudoun are soon going to have to slow down even more. The Virginia Department of Transportation has received approval to reduce the speed limit along the road from 45 miles per hour to 40 miles per hour, Terrie Laycock, acting director of the Office of Transportation Services told the board’s Transportation and Land Use Committee Monday night.
The process is already under way and should be completed some time in the next few weeks, she said.
The Algonkian Parkway study started after two pedestrians were killed while crossing the street last year. The first, a 25-year-old woman was killed in January while crossing against the light. The second, a 21-year-old Russian woman was killed in August was crossing at CountrySide Boulevard at night when she was struck by a car.
Folks, the answer to every safety issue on the roads does not always involve slowing down. Accidents happen in parking lots where people are going 15 mph; is anyone suggesting lowering the speed to 5? Or 2? It’s a knee-jerk, thoughtless response to a tragedy and it will not produce the additional safety margin we need.
The incidents referred to in the story are the 2007 pedestrian fatalities at the corner of Countryside Parkway and Algonkian Parkway. In both cases, young women were struck and killed as they attempted to cross Algonkian Parkway near that intersection. That intersection has a traffic light, by the way, but did not have a marked crosswalk when the women were hit. Something the Leesburg Today story fails to mention is that, in both cases, the women were 1) crossing the road at night, 2) crossing against the light, and 3) were struck by motorists who were not exceeding the speed limit of 45 mph.
When young people are killed in an accident, it’s tragic. We all feel remorse over the incident, the sense of loss to the community that a promising young life has been cut short. We should not allow ourselves to be blinding to the reality of the situation, however. The cause of the accident and the result of a fatality was not the speed the cars were maintaining. The cause of the accident was that the pedestrians were out in the road where they should not have been and the visibility at the intersection is not just poor, it’s critically compromised. I wrote about this issue after the second fatality in August of last year:
The unpleasant truth regarding both of these fatalities is that the pedestrian was crossing the street against the light. Whether they were in a crosswalk or not is immaterial – they were in the road when they should not have been. Lowering the speed limit is likewise immaterial. Both women would have been killed as easily at 35 mph as they were at 45 mph. The argument that lowering the speed to 35 would provide the driver more reaction time is misplaced. The reaction time is only valuable if the driver can actually see the person in the road where no one was supposed to be. This is the crux of the problem at that intersection.
I live in Countryside. I pass that intersection literally every day and I understand completely why a driver would strike a person crossing that road at night, against the light, and inside the crosswalk. Approaching that intersection from the West, the driver is coming downhill. At the moment the driver crests the hill and comes into visual range of the intersection, the vehicle is actually above the level of the signal light. As they approach, they descend and are traveling directly toward the light. In short, the signal is shining directly into their eyes. The road beyond that signal is not lit and is therefore masked almost completely by the signal light. The green light, in particular, is bright enough to obscure the crosswalk that sits just beyond it. With no available light past the signal, I submit that there is virtually no chance to see a person crossing against the light.
What is needed here is a streetlight positioned to illuminate the crosswalk. I’m not suggesting that we install enough lights to turn night into day throughout that intersection, but we can install one or two and tailor the lighting to fall on the crosswalk itself. Lit in this fashion, a driver approaching that intersection at night would have visual contact with a person crossing that road and that contact is the key to avoiding more pedestrians being hit and possibly killed.
This is as true today as it was then. Simply ratcheting the speed down every time there’s an accident is not a rational approach. It’s a “gotta-do-something” flailing reaction designed to show action is being taken rather than effective solutions being deployed.
The lighting along this road is the more critical issue than the speed, especially at intersections with traffic lights where the glare of the actual light signal is creating blind spots. VDOT and the Loudoun BoS should be moving forward with that plan rather than wasting time with speed cuts that will not produce significant safety improvements.
After an abysmal managerial performance by JetBlue in keeping passengers stranded away from the terminal at JFK last Valentine’s Day, New York’s legislature passed a law that got dubbed a “passenger’s bill of rights.” The law mandated that airlines provide food, water, toilet facilities, and fresh air to passengers stuck in the planes for longer than a set period of time. The Air Transport Association of America challenged the law on the basis that only the Feds can regulate pricing, routing, and services provided by an airline. The 2nd District Court of Appeals agreed:
A federal appeals court Tuesday struck down a state law requiring airlines to give food, water, clean toilets and fresh air to passengers stuck in delayed planes, saying the measure was well-intentioned but stepped on federal authority.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said New York’s law — the first of its kind in the country — interferes with federal law governing the price, route or service of an air carrier.
As much as the incident angered even former airline employees like myself, the court’s decision was correct. In their ruling, the court wrote that the acceptance of the NY law would permit other states to start passing their own laws requiring the airlines to start or stop providing all manner of of services, such as the court’s examples of banning soda or requiring only allergen-free foods be served. Such a patchwork of laws could easily result in contradictory laws being passed, putting the airlines into a Catch-22 situation.
It will fall to Congress to make such a law. It will stick if issued at the federal level. Of course, the airlines will swear on a stack of Bibles that no such law is needed, that they are policing themselves. As I wrote in my post on the JetBlue fiasco, that requires the airlines’ management to truly adopt a customers-first attitude:
JetBlue’s issue was not the weather-related cancellation or delay of flights. While there are plenty of idiots out there who think the airline should get them where they’re going on time – early would be preferable – regardless of the conditions, the fact is that most people are very understanding about the airlines’ erring to the side of caution where weather is concerned. The problem people in New York had was in being locked in a plane for 6 to 9 hours. The reason for that was not the weather. The reason for that was the decision by the airline to push flights that were loaded with people out from the gate to allow incoming flights to come in and then to not let those flights that had pushed but were not allowed to take off to come back in.
So, what should they have done? They should have put the passengers ahead of their own convenience. They should have considered what their own reaction would likely be at being locked into a small space with lots of other frustrated people with insufficient food, supplies, and bathrooms. They should have realized that, once they had more planes on the ground than they had gates, their choice was between having a plane and flight crew stranded away from the terminal or having a plane, a flight crew and a full load of passengers stranded away from the terminal. In short, they should have pushed an empty aircraft away from a gate and gotten one of the loaded ones back in there.
And they should have done it a damn sight sooner than 6 hours.
If they’ve honestly changed their ways, that’s great. The problem is they’ve shown already that they didn’t have that attitude in mind. The only way we’ll know for sure if they do or don’t is to wait for the opportunity for them to prove it. If they haven’t, there’s going to be a lot of really unhappy people and we’ve passed laws to protect the public from a lot less.
More colloquially: You talkin’ ta me?!?
Actually, it’s the reverse I’m addressing tonight: I’m talking to you. By now, most of you who have been consistent readers of this blog are suspecting I’ve stayed up way past bedtime and I’ve been hitting the old Crown Royal a bit too hard. Untrue. But something has come up and there are people searching the blogosphere at this very moment who need to hear this specific post coming from me.
The thoughts and commentary coming from this blog are mine and mine alone. When I quote someone else, I say so. When my prose is my analysis of the facts, as opposed to the facts, I make it clear. I speak for no one and no organization but me on this blog. Period. End of story.
There you go. Ethics covered. For those of you who have come looking for this – and we both know who you are – my stance on my writings here is why I’ve chosen to reveal the facts about me that I have and to not reveal those I haven’t. That decision stands and is not open for debate. I do thank you for your interest in blogging and your understanding as to why people engage in this hobby. Stick around, have a look, join in a conversation. I’ll be here… and here’s looking at you.
Not much time to do more that post you a pointer:
By now, you’ve seen that Lt. Governor Bill Bolling will run for re-election in 2009, and not seek the Governor’s Mansion as previously thought.
This makes Attorney General Bob McDonnell, who has already announced he’s running, the presumptive GOP nominee and the front-runner in the general election, ahead of either the man he defeated three years ago or a far-left delegate.
Read the whole thing.
Towers of bravery that they are, a bunch of idiotic jackasses thought it would be just the thing to walk into a Catholic Easter service yesterday and, when the congregation sat down to listen to the priest’s homily, stand up and spray fake blood all over everyone while spewing anti-war screeds.
So where are these brave little twits serving up the same actions at the mosques where the imams are exhorting people to head to Iraq to become suicide bombers? How come they don’t shout these things at the local Muslim Brotherhood meeting? Simple: they’re afraid they’ll get killed in seconds, a fate they’re reasonably sure will happen. And yet, we Catholics who raised not a finger against them are disparaged and reviled.
Should we start responding more forcefully to this kind of action? Should we start sending sniveling little brats like these out the door on ambulance gurneys?
I’ve got my own answer to that – and so did Jesus, I might add – but perhaps a better way is for the Church to start suing the crap out of assholes like these and drive them into the ground, financially. Put a lien on their livelihood for the next 15 years of so and make real bloody sure their faces and names are broadcast far and wide. They’ve taken the action, we should make sure they reap what they’ve sown.
In researching that last post on the 1977 Muslim takeover of several buildings in DC in 1977, I couldn’t help but notice that the action took place after DC enacted its draconian gun ban laws on 24 September, 1976. Yeah, that ban was just working like a charm from the word “go”, wasn’t it? I mean, it stopped those armed terrorists from taking over a few buildings cold, didn’t it?
I can see why DC would prefer to not have this story come back up on the front page.