Economist Detained for Doing Math on an Airplane

An economics professor was detained when he was spotted doing math on an airplane:

On Thursday evening, a 40-year-old man ­-- with dark, curly hair, olive skin and an exotic foreign accent --­ boarded a plane. It was a regional jet making a short, uneventful hop from Philadelphia to nearby Syracuse.

Or so dozens of unsuspecting passengers thought.

The curly-haired man tried to keep to himself, intently if inscrutably scribbling on a notepad he'd brought aboard. His seatmate, a blond-haired, 30-something woman sporting flip-flops and a red tote bag, looked him over. He was wearing navy Diesel jeans and a red Lacoste sweater -- a look he would later describe as "simple elegance" -- but something about him didn't seem right to her.

She decided to try out some small talk.

Is Syracuse home? She asked.

No, he replied curtly.

He similarly deflected further questions. He appeared laser-focused ­-- perhaps too laser-focused ­-- on the task at hand, those strange scribblings.

Rebuffed, the woman began reading her book. Or pretending to read, anyway. Shortly after boarding had finished, she flagged down a flight attendant and handed that crew-member a note of her own.

This story ended better than some. Economics professor Guido Menzio (yes, he's Italian) was taken off the plane, questioned, cleared, and allowed to board with the rest of his passengers two hours later.

This is a result of our stupid "see something, say something" culture. As I repeatedly say: "If you ask amateurs to act as front-line security personnel, you shouldn't be surprised when you get amateur security."

On the other hand, "Algebra, of course, does have Arabic origins plus math is used to make bombs." Plus, this fine joke from 2003:

At Heathrow Airport today, an individual, later discovered to be a school teacher, was arrested trying to board a flight while in possession of a compass, a protractor, and a graphical calculator.

Authorities believe she is a member of the notorious al-Gebra movement. She is being charged with carrying weapons of math instruction.

AP story. Slashdot thread.

Seriously, though, I worry that this kind of thing will happen to me. I'm older, and I'm not very Semitic looking, but I am curt to my seatmates and intently focused on what I am doing -- which sometimes involves looking at web pages about, and writing about, security and terrorism. I'm sure I'm vaguely suspicious.

EDITED TO ADD: Last month a student was removed from an airplane for speaking Arabic.

Posted on May 9, 2016 at 1:15 PM • 96 Comments

Comments

DanielMay 9, 2016 1:30 PM

If you ask amateurs to act as front-line security personnel, you shouldn't be surprised when you get amateur security.

This is true enough but it seems to me to miss the point of the exercise. The point of "see something, say something" is to condition citizens to accept a culture of continuous surveillance, to make everyone an arm of the panopticon against everyone else. The fact that people aren't competent at the surveillance is irrelevant to the fact that once conditioned to the constant subservience their motivation to resist the demands of the state is weakened.


Scott RomanowskiMay 9, 2016 1:35 PM

I'd better never read "Differential Equations for Dummies" on a plane! :-D

I think every passenger on that plane should sue the woman and flight crew for their delay -- she acted negligently and cost everyone several hours of their time. And not just the passengers on this flight, the plane probably had other stops, so everyone else that depended on that physical plane suffered.

All it would have taken is one member of the flight crew asking Dr. Medal what he was doing. Instead, it seems that they blindly accepted one woman's claim.

Maybe this will become a new terrorist tactic -- don't do anything yourselves, just report random people.

--- Scott

zMay 9, 2016 1:35 PM

A couple years ago I was in a CVS pharmacy fairly late at night. The guy behind the counter was panicking because a woman had left her purse there. He said "If you see something, say something, right? That's a suspicious bag! I'm calling the police". After hearing him repeat this a few more times, I managed to convince him to at least let me checkout before he called the police/FBI/DEVGRU/whoever because al-Qaeda's most prized target is probably not an empty pharmacy in the middle of nowhere, USA. He was still on the phone with the 911 dispatch as I left.

Wes ReynoldsMay 9, 2016 1:48 PM

@ Bruce

The professor is Guido Menzio. The Carlo Alberto Medal is an Italian award given to the top economist under 40.

- Wes

WaldoMay 9, 2016 1:58 PM

As I have said before - by getting the American (and other) public to act this way, the terrorist groups have long ago succeeded in what they set out to do. Terrorism in my mind is not about the planes flying into the twin towers, or a suicide bomber on a plane with explosives in his pants, or a subway train being bombed. The constant fear and distrust that we live in is testament to their success. We have already lost the war.

albertMay 9, 2016 2:10 PM

This is -exactly- how fascist states work. In the past, it was fear of the staatzpolizei, today, it's fear of 'terrorists'.

Well, that's progress. We've gone from fear of real physical punishment (imprisonment or death), to fear of acts of terror, which may or may not be real. A virtual enemy. Add to that, the all-seeing, all-knowing oracle know as the Web, where everything factual is there for the world to see.

What could possibly go wrong?

This topic was covered in the latest Friday Squid Blog.

. .. . .. --- ....

Scott RomanowskiMay 9, 2016 2:36 PM

Thanks @ Wes, I made a mistake with Dr. Menzio's name.

WaelMay 9, 2016 2:37 PM

I worry that this kind of thing will happen to me.

And there I was thinking that you went through security lines and boarded planes without the need to show an ID! What happened, did your passphrase: "Wake up and smell what you're shoveling, I'm @Bruce Schneier, B*tch!" expire?

Economics professor Guido Menzio (yes, he's Italian) was taken off the plane...

Heard of this guy, @ianf?

The curly-haired man tried to keep to himself, intently if inscrutably scribbling on a notepad he'd brought aboard.

So what's the threat here? The guy is writing a belated attack plan? Writing his will? What can he possibly be writing that caused the alarm?

PhilSMay 9, 2016 3:10 PM

Seems like the woman stereotyped him due to his accent and skin color.

That's OK -- she's blond.

EvanMay 9, 2016 3:15 PM

@Daniel:

I think it's just more security theater - "If You See Something, Say Something" is to make people feel like they can do something actively about terrorism, instead of just standing around being a potential victim.

Mike GerwitzMay 9, 2016 3:33 PM

And this isn't even all that suspicious, you'd think.

I was sitting on a plane once, writing an article in LaTeX. Everything I do is in a terminal in a GNU Screen session, so I'd be switching between my editor and the command line doing various things like building and modifying the article.

There was a teenager sitting next to me. He seemed uncomfortable, turned to me and said: "Can I ask what you're doing?"

"Oh, I'm just writing an article." I said, wondering if he believed me.

I'm fortunate he didn't say anything, because it's unfortunate today that someone hacking at the command line with a fullscreen terminal might be immediately considered suspicious. I can only wonder if he noticed the "Happy Hacking" in the lower-left-hand corner of my screen.

Though, I can't say that I haven't been trained to be suspect of someone doing the same thing; I'd be suspicious too, if I didn't know better.

Paul JohnsonMay 9, 2016 3:40 PM

I am so reminded of the old joke about weapons of maths instruction.

AndreoMay 9, 2016 3:44 PM

OK, so I'm on a flight and this happens. What do I do? Can I stop this without becoming a co-terrorist? Can I shut down something foolish so that we are able to go on our way? If I'm traveling with Carlo or Carla, I can speak up on their behalf, but suppose I'm a stranger.

As an observer, affected but not involved, what can I do?

ElizabethMay 9, 2016 3:46 PM

but I am curt to my seatmates and intently focused on what I am doing -- which sometimes involves looking at web pages about, and writing about, security and terrorism. I'm sure I'm vaguely suspicious.

Funny enough, a classmate of mine in college was studying on a bus over Thanksgiving break and her seatmate apparently seemed a little nervous about her Cryptography Engineering book. Maybe they just felt intimidated by the big words, but it made for a funny story.

TatütataMay 9, 2016 4:05 PM

This mishap reminds me of the reasons why I avoid flying in general, and also the company of other human beings.

It would "help" if he didn't wear Arafat's keffieh as a scarf...

Joke aside, the guy's specialty is economics, which some consider pseudo-science. Many a economics theory was debunked, but not before they caused damage after being adopted as dogma.

"... a frictional model of the labor market with off and on the job search"

The general theme reminds me proverbial spherical cow...

ThomasMay 9, 2016 4:08 PM

We have Economists and their sympathisers to thank for the GFC and the resulting conditions that have put Trump within a toupee's throw of the Whitehouse.

It might not be entirely fair to criticise a lady who identified what she thought was a threat to society.

JonMay 9, 2016 4:35 PM

@ Paul Johnson:

As was remarked on Slashdot, he was clearly a member of the Al Gebra network.

J.

SteveMay 9, 2016 4:54 PM

Was he suspected of planing an activity? Or perhaps she thought it was an incantation that would bring the plane down right now?

KeithBMay 9, 2016 5:05 PM

As someone pointed out, economists have probably hurt more people than terrorists.

JacobMay 9, 2016 5:26 PM

@ KeithB

by matt blaze ‏@mattblaze May 7:

(whispers to flight attendant): "I don't want to upset anyone, but I think the man in 15C is modeling credit default swaps".

Jesse ThompsonMay 9, 2016 6:36 PM

@Tatütata But that's not the same pattern as Arafat's keffieh, it's instead a very heavily used crochet pattern called Houndstooth.

Sure, I know that's a joke, but it's on a level with "he has only one head, just like Hitler". x3

Miguel SanchezMay 9, 2016 6:49 PM

Some very witty comments, but unfortunately, not one is a "lol" because of the seriousness of the situation.

I would point out that, statistically, this is extremely rare. Though, this is not like predicting the next person to be struck by lightning, because lightning patterns are generally going to remain static. Whereas, we could always have a new, bad wave of worse when it comes to human controlled behavior.

That said, I do not think so. I think this was a one off.

And there are symptoms of health here: it was widely reported, and widely condemned.

In an unhealthy system, such a story would have been crushed.

As for the airlines, the professor is correct. They could have not just googled him... they could have looked at his name on the list and seen he was Italian.

But, they were hamstrung by the way they are doing security, trusting amateurs. Who, clearly, can be very unbalanced and racist.

"see something, say something" was an idiotic slogan created by some ad agency with zero law enforcement background. ( http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2010/05/if_you_see_something_say_somet.html )

The brainchild of Manhattan ad agency Korey Kay & Partners’ chairman Allen Kay, the line was conceived by Kay for the MTA on September 12, 2001, as he “wanted to help prevent another disaster and to do something positive in the aftermath of the attacks.” By January 2003, the slogan was plastered across subways and buses as part of the MTA's security-awareness campaign. The authority has spent $2 million to $3 million per year on advertising the phrase, with a large part of that amount supplied by Homeland Security Department grants.

It reeks right off, as something from 1984, or the Stasi or something.

I think Americans just tend to be very poorly educated on world history is why it caught on so well.

A lot of talk about liberty and democracy, but not much of what that actually means in schools.


ArtichoeMay 9, 2016 6:52 PM

Racial profiling would have helped there: peope like 30y blondes wearing flip-flops should always been expected to do something stoopid, and the italian professor should have anticipated that reporting her to on board officer as probable source of paranoid and grossly inaccurate security claims.

cinatas cinapMay 9, 2016 7:25 PM

These people are everywhere.
Are you one of them?
This is the new norm

mikefMay 9, 2016 9:02 PM

"I worry that this kind of thing will happen to me. I'm older, and I'm not very Semitic looking, but ...

You're probably fine, ponytails shot with gray are indeed suspicious-looking, but not terror-isty.

EricMay 9, 2016 9:08 PM


I suppose this woman would have been more comfortable if he had been looking at porn instead?

I have the sinking feeling that the movie "Idiocracy" may be far more prophetic than anyone realizes.

ravenwoodMay 9, 2016 9:28 PM

Schneier, about what you said here:

"This is a result of our stupid "see something, say something" culture."

You're kidding, right? What?? You're serious?! This is how local police function, by people calling them with what they see and hear. Many a crime gets foiled that way yet you think done on a national scale it's not the same? Boy are you way off.

ravenwouldn'tMay 9, 2016 10:38 PM

@ravenwood

You obviously haven't lived in a totalitarian state where everyone must "snitch" on their neighbors (or even just make stuff up) to keep from being hauled off to the gulag themselves, and everyone lives in abject fear of everyone else at all times... I have. Don't worry, the more fear is spread by your government and everyone is encouraged to report everything (even insignificant things), the more you will have the chance to better experience this great phenomenon. I wish people who think this is such a great system would move to North Korea instead of messing this country up though! Or be a patriot and become a whistleblower. Don't stand for it.

ravenwouldn'tMay 9, 2016 10:44 PM

By the way, I disagree with people who say "don't do this" or "don't do that" out of fear, when those are completely normal things to do... I only approve of this when it's really mean to mock and wake people up, not when it's meant to spread fear. Throwing off fear and doing normal harmless things anyway, in spite of any stupid risks, is the way to overcome this. Cowering in fear and not doing anything is giving up and giving in to fear and terrorism!

keinerMay 10, 2016 12:39 AM

From George W. Bush to Tronald Dumb: 15 years+ of brain wash lead to a totally neurotic society. QED...

StuartMay 10, 2016 12:49 AM

I have spoken with my Italian physicist friends and it is likely that no further work on saving people's lives in radiation oncology work will take place on planes anymore. Its just too dangerous to try to do good on a plane anymore.

Wesley ParishMay 10, 2016 2:33 AM

out on the Far Side, Gary Larson informed us of a condition where you were afraid that somewhere, somehow, a duck was watching you. He even gave the name of the condition
http://www.techly.com.au/2015/09/22/thagomizer-stegosaurus-tail-named-joke-80s/
http://hubpages.com/health/Anatidaephobia-The-Fear-of-Being-Watched-by-a-Duck

We really need a word to describe the fear that somewhere somehow, an idiot is involving the authorities. And also, the fear that somewhere, somehow, an idiot is breeding.

MarkMay 10, 2016 3:46 AM

It's a sad indictment on our society in general that these incidents are happening -- people taken off planes and questioned because they have maths, are speaking another language, or someone thinks that they're doing "something".

A culture of paranoia has been created by the American government and media, and it's sadly been pushed across the globe.

Wasn't there an incident a few months ago in which a child was arrested for taking a clock that he'd built to school? Of course it was in America.

Muslims in the UK -- families with young children on holiday and people who have been to the USA many times -- not allowed to enter the USA because of unfounded security fears.

Children not allowed to board planes because they're on a "no fly" list.

Very sad.

Clive RobinsonMay 10, 2016 5:24 AM

@ Mark,

A culture of paranoia has been created by the American government and media, and it's sadly been pushed across the globe.

Because it's not only good for some peoples business, but because it keeps people from seeing what else is going on.

If you want to see what is going on, "follow the money" trail back from politicians pockets via a twisted route to those it came from, or go to Davos at the right time. Whilst you should not ignore the "inept stumblers and bumblers" like the Koch brothers, they are just the sad wanabees in comparison to others more skilled, at not drawing attention to themselves, thus keeping out of the public eye.

For these people money is not an end in it's self, it is just the means to an end a tool no more no less. What their aim is, is status in the eyes of their peers, and the pleasure of being the king makers and hidden voice behind the throne.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the latest social experiment. For some reason it appears as if an outsider has been able to buy his way into the game, which others have noticeably failed to do before, by not going independently but pushing through a political party in disarray to become their "last hope" therefor only choice.

It is thus clear that sufficient of the US public, have for whatever reason decided the old ways need to be shaken up if not changed.

SteveMay 10, 2016 7:18 AM

@Miguel Sanchez: "[T]hey could have looked at his name on the list and seen he was Italian."

Perhaps you're too young to remember the Red Brigades.

Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber" had a nice English name.

National origin is no bar to nuttiness.

Personally, I think the biggest danger here is economists using higher math.

DavidFMMMay 10, 2016 7:45 AM

Bruce, if you would wear a turban while on the plane, you could significantly increase your chances of being detained. I would recommend boarding without the headgear first, then donning the turban afterwards. Be sure to wait until the plane takes off.

JG4May 10, 2016 7:49 AM


to the extent that Karl Marx and his psychopath disciples were economists, they've collectively killed more people than any other ideological stripe on your planet, 100 millions in round numbers. not to say that Killary and the neocons can't catch up, or that they haven't tried.

economists using math are only slightly less dangerous than the ones with chicken blood and pentagrams.

we have an expression in science, "All models are wrong, some are useful."

the problem with economists and central bankers is that they believe their own claptrap, in particular that interest rates are like some kind of wall thermostat that you dial up and down willy-nilly until the employment rate matches your models. the optimistic case is that they are unwitting, with no thought for knock-on effects on the planet of unintended consequences. the realistic case is that they are psychopaths too.

good luck with that

there is a deep analogy between the Fed's suppression of recession and depressions with interest rate policy and the unintended consequences of Teddy Roosevelt's fire suppression policy that resulted in the impressive Yellowstone fire of the late 1980's.

anything can happen at any time on the planet of unintended consequences

keinerMay 10, 2016 8:09 AM

eehm, whut? Marx killed peeplz? MAybe you should get back to your history book. Or maybe history channel, if reading books is... not indicate...

Marx is as responsible for Stalin as Jesus was for the crusades. It's what people make out of it, stupid!

James ComeyMay 10, 2016 8:56 AM

@ravenwood
Many a crime gets foiled that way yet you think done on a national scale it's not the same?
How many? Can you prove that? Give a link to FBI/DOJ etc stats or you don't know anything.

See Something Say SomethingMay 10, 2016 8:56 AM

See Something, Say Something? OK, how about this:

CIA operations follow the same recurring script. First, American business interests abroad are threatened by a popular or democratically elected leader. The people support their leader because he intends to conduct land reform, strengthen unions, redistribute wealth, nationalize foreign-owned industry, and regulate business to protect workers, consumers and the environment. So, on behalf of American business, and often with their help, the CIA mobilizes the opposition. First it identifies right-wing groups within the country (usually the military), and offers them a deal: “We’ll put you in power if you maintain a favorable business climate for us.” The Agency then hires, trains and works with them to overthrow the existing government (usually a democracy). It uses every trick in the book: propaganda, stuffed ballot boxes, purchased elections, extortion, blackmail, sexual intrigue, false stories about opponents in the local media, infiltration and disruption of opposing political parties, kidnapping, beating, torture, intimidation, economic sabotage, death squads and even assassination. These efforts culminate in a military coup, which installs a right-wing dictator. The CIA trains the dictator’s security apparatus to crack down on the traditional enemies of big business, using interrogation, torture and murder. The victims are said to be “communists,” but almost always they are just peasants, liberals, moderates, labor union leaders, political opponents and advocates of free speech and democracy. Widespread human rights abuses follow.

I've identified a terrorist government agency operating since 1947 (7 decades of terror) with POTUS approval, leading to the deaths of millions in South America, Asia, Africa, the ME and Europe.

Do I get a cookie? LOL

paulMay 10, 2016 9:02 AM

One of the problems here is that "this person shouldn't be flying because they pose a danger to this flight" has morphed into "this person shouldn't be flying because they're evil and deserve to get in trouble." Because otherwise you would think that taking someone off a flight would be accompanied by a thorough teardown of the entire interior of the plane and re-searches of everyone's hand luggage and persons, in case the perp had secreted something diabolical.

It would be lovely to see a policy where the person making a report was the one who got escorted off the plane for a detailed debriefing, since they obviously think that flying on that aircraft isn't safe.

Dirk PraetMay 10, 2016 9:06 AM

Algebra, of course, does have Arabic origins plus math is used to make bombs.

Although derived from the Arabic word Al-Jabr as in the title of a 9th century treatise by a Persian mathematician, the roots of algebra are actually Indian, Mesopotamian and Greek. Then again those were also the days were the West went through the Dark Ages and in the East enlightened Islamic rulers actively promoted science and art.

@ JG4

economists using math are only slightly less dangerous than the ones with chicken blood and pentagrams.

It remains however beyond me how an economist with a notepad can represent a clear and imminent danger to an airliner.

@ Steve

Perhaps you're too young to remember the Red Brigades

So all Italians are potential terrorists? That's pretty much the same perverted logic as that of jihadists describing all westerners as crusaders.

@ DavidFMM

Bruce, if you would wear a turban while on the plane, you could significantly increase your chances of being detained.

Salafists don't wear turbans. It would be kinda smart to educate TSA staffers and other mindless droids that folks wearing a turban in general do not fit a terrorist profile and that Sikhs are not even Muslims. Which you have no way of knowing when your education system s*cks, your government and MSM are doing everything in their power to make you paranoid and you are more interested in the shenanigans of the Kardashians anyway.

@ keiner

Marx is as responsible for Stalin as Jesus was for the crusades.

+1

GweihirMay 10, 2016 9:13 AM

The funny (or tragic) thing here is that an actual attacker with a minimum of training will find it very easy to blend in in this climate of stupidity. Of course, that is not much of a problem either as the whole threat is vastly overblown.

Pol PotMay 10, 2016 9:19 AM

@Gweihir
Remember me, please, when countries starts to search for external enemy?

KeithBMay 10, 2016 9:46 AM

Stuart:
Thanks for being a concern troll, but I really doubt that very many lives will be saved during the few hours of flight time if your physicist friends decide to watch a movie rather than work.

CallMeLateForSupperMay 10, 2016 9:49 AM

@Wael
"So what's the threat here? The guy is writing a belated attack plan? Writing his will? What can he possibly be writing that caused the alarm?"

The prize for best mid-term score in 2nd semester e-mag theory was a dark blue t-shirt emblazoned with Maxwell's Equations in white. I loved that shirt almost as much as I loved what it represented (besting my mates, which was unprecedented). I ordered lunch one day, at a typical campus sub shop clerked by an education student I knew slightly. She studied the vector calculus for some seconds, then screwed up her face and shook her head dismissively. What?, I asked. "It says something about VD. If that's a joke, I don't like it." What she objected to, of course, was (phonetically) "divergence of D".

There is no accounting (no pun) for ignorance, and there is no avoiding its myriad knock-on effects.

DavidFMMMay 10, 2016 10:35 AM

@ Dirk Praet

Salafists don't wear turbans. It would be kinda smart to educate TSA staffers and other mindless droids that folks wearing a turban in general do not fit a terrorist profile and that Sikhs are not even Muslims. Which you have no way of knowing when your education system s*cks, your government and MSM are doing everything in their power to make you paranoid and you are more interested in the shenanigans of the Kardashians anyway.

Not pointing to those who may profess to follow Islam. I'm pointing to the ignorance of the average(?) American. And please note, I'm sure that the number of Americans that don't "follow" the Kardashians far outnumber those who do.

albertMay 10, 2016 11:13 AM

I assured my friend, the math teacher, that he'll always find employment, as there is a great need for education in mathematics.

@Comments not directed to anyone in particular, though if the shoe fits...you know who you are:

Economics is, like the social 'sciences', simply a field of study which uses scientific methodology. A bit like chiropractors calling themselves 'doctors'.

Menzio was obviously profiled. If he had been a young blond girl with -exactly- the same behavior, -nothing- would have happened. Too bad he didn't file a discrimination lawsuit. OTOH, such behavior might lead to the legalization of profiling...so...

Remember the terrorist who said: "When it becomes necessary, we will look just like you."

The 'Ugly American' stereotype is still valid today. The MSM helps promote provincialism. It's unfortunate that the majority of citizens have no interaction with (or even accurate knowledge of) folks from other cultures, political systems, and belief systems, except what they see on TV.

The algebra incident is merely it tick in the Muslim Terrorism Movement. I think the MTMs rank and file don't even realize how wildly successful the movement has been. Since before 9/11*. Look how dramatically the world has changed, and it's still changing! Look at what's happening in Europe. This couldn't have worked out better if someone had planned it, and I don't think it was bin Laden.

I haven't flown since before 911, but I was profiled even then. Since I look like an evil version of Bruce (sans ponytail at that!), I'm a little concerned. :)

--------------
* if it happened in Europe, would it be called 11/9?
. .. . .. --- ....

Coyne TibbetsMay 10, 2016 12:35 PM

This not only says something about see-something-say-something society: It says other things, few of them complimentary. A few random thoughts...

It says things about lack of empathy and self-awareness. Suppose the woman in the incident had been reading a magazine on the plane, and the male stranger in the seat next to her kept asking questions, interrupting her, trying to read over her shoulder. Show of hands: who here thinks she would be curt?

It says things about ignorance. I must be brighter than average because I'm pretty sure I can tell the difference between a math equation and Arabic script. Who couldn't? Well, not the woman. Not any of the flight attendants, the captain, or the security agents...

It says a lot about prejudice. "He looks like he might be a Muslim and all Muslims are terrorists!" Much is being made about this incident, but it's not the first one we've seen. And they all go the same way: "That guy looks/sounds/dresses/acts/smells Muslim...OMG we're all gonna die!!!"

It says things about confidence. Evidently, no one from the flight attendants to the captain to the agents had the confidence to decide that Menzio was okay. Who finally did have the confidence...did they actually have to escalate it all the way to President Obama?

It says a lot about the capability of this massive security apparatus we're paying for. I'm sorry, but two f****g hours to vet this guy? I guess it's good he wasn't a real terrorist because, in two hours, a terrorist could have blown up half of Philadelphia.

All-in-all, a very pathetic showing for the so-called Great Society.

Clive RobinsonMay 10, 2016 12:35 PM

@ jl,

Bruce Schneier makes airplanes follow elliptical curves.

Hmm that's one heck of a roller coaster ride, and I would not want to be on board when going through the X axis...

Gerard van VoorenMay 10, 2016 12:52 PM

@ Clive Robinson,

"Because it's not only good for some peoples business, but because it keeps people from seeing what else is going on."

The Iraq War (the Petrodollar). That alone is enough for the whole charade.

Bumble BeeMay 10, 2016 1:48 PM

I'm not really sure what's going on. I don't see that well without glasses, and I don't believe in crystal balls, but as far as I can tell, the real terrorists these days are Nazis, and I refuse to dignify them with the Neo- prefix. There is nothing new under the sun. KKK, Freemasons, Illuminati, Catholic Church, etc., etc., it has all been thoroughly infiltrated and subverted as if it weren't altogether evil to begin with. The relatively few persons of predominantly Muslim heritage, culture, or ethnicity who support this kind thing are no doubt Iblis-worshipping infidels who long ago gave up the struggle. They drink alcohol and enjoy sexual pleasures in the last days of their lives, because deep down inside, they know they have no martyrs' reward.

AnuraMay 10, 2016 1:53 PM

@Dirk Praet

It remains however beyond me how an economist with a notepad can represent a clear and imminent danger to an airliner.

I heard that the top physicists in the country can cause an airplane to drop out of the sky by whistling gravity equations into the headphone jack.

ZAnonymousMay 10, 2016 2:59 PM

I can relate to this story, but with a different outcome. A few weeks ago I was sitting in the last row of seats, right in front of the bathroom, on a flight to Los Angeles. At the very last minute before the door closed for departure, a middle-aged Iraqi male got on the plane and headed straight to the bathroom behind me, and was in there for about 5 minutes. Upon exiting the restroom he excused himself past me, sat in the window seat in my row, and began a call speaking in Arabic on his cell phone. He made several brief calls and I have to admit I was a little unnerved by this, and the fact he appeared nervous. But these facts in themselves point to nothing overly suspicious, so as we were taxiing across the tarmac to begin our flight, I leaned over and asked him to put his phone into airline mode, and he smiled and said of course. I then used that opening to strike up a short conversation with him, which is when I found out he was Iraqi, then we were in the air and flying home.

About an hour into the flight, a man about 10 rows in front of ours gets up, comes to our row, and speaking in Arabic hands the man in my row a device that will connect to his smart phone, presumably a charging cube of some kind as this plane did not have USB ports. This new person then goes into the same bathroom the man next to me had used preflight. I heared the toilet flush after a minute or two, then this man proceeds to stay in the restroom for almost 15 minutes.

By this point I am becoming a bit nervous as my seatmate is fumbling with the phone charger device, and it doesn’t actually appear to be charging the phone. The other man finally leaves the bathroom, says a few words in Arabic to the guy next to me, and goes back to his seat.

Now I am no ‘fraidy cat, but I have to admit I had grown concerned, so after the next person used the bathroom, I went in there myself and checked it out as best I could, opening all the compartments I could open and looking for anything suspicious. Totally stupid as I am no expert, so what was I looking for? Regardless doing so made me feel better about these strange coincidences, which while odd, in no way pointed conclusively to any kind of subterfuge.

Long story short, we landed safely and I said goodbye to my Iraqi seatmate, feeling just a twinge of guilt for my personal act of profiling, but even so, I am no sheep, so I had to act as I did just to do my best to ensure to myself nothing was out of the ordinary, which is something everyone should do long before they decide to contact authorities about coincidental behaviors which might seems suspicious.

WaelMay 10, 2016 3:10 PM

Going through this long post will be rewarding ;)

@Dirk Praet, @Clive Robinson (by default)

There are several "types" of Algebra and several countries of "origin". Al-Khwarizmi, where the term "algorithm" is derived from, wasn't the only Muslim who contributed to Algebra, there are others mentioned in the previous link and this one

Turban 101 (and lab): This is a Sikh's turban; this is how a proper Muslim's turban looks like, any questions? (Apologies to Sikhs if I botched this one.)

@CallMeLateForSupper,

"It says something about VD. If that's a joke, I don't like it." What she objected to, of course, was (phonetically) "divergence of D"

My friend Andrew, who holds a Ph.D. in applied mathematics, can't handle a Laplacian either. He can do pretty complicated things, but he told me once: man, when I see that Laplacian operator, I just freak out. So don't feel too bad. There should have been a name for this phobia, somewhere! Feel free to add an entry for "Laplacophobia" ;) My favorite one is "Anatidaephobia"

There is no accounting (no pun) for ignorance, and there is no avoiding its myriad knock-on effects.

To accept that ignorance exists and be cautious. Hard to argue with stupid.

@ravenwood,

You're kidding, right? What?? You're serious?! This is how local police function, by people calling them with what they see and hear...

Sweet! Call your local police, then come share with us what transpired. Start as follows:

You: I need to report a suspicious activity.
Dispatcher: Go ahead, Madam

You: There is this middle eastern looking guy, sitting at Starbucks and he's writing some weird stuff on a pad

Dispatcher: Weird, how?
You: Not sure, I don't know sh*t from Shinola. It's gotta be evil. "see something, say something"... You know?

@Anura,

I heard that the top physicists in the country can cause an airplane to drop out of the sky by whistling gravity equations into the headphone jack.

Shhhhhh! At least follow it with a smiley so you don't get physicists in world of hurt!

Finally, it's all about conditioning. sp"See something, say something" has conditioned people to see things that don't really exist. Watch this amazing "A Dramatic Demonstration of the Power of Mental Frame"s[1]. While you're at it, you might enjoy The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets video. You'll learn some amazing things there, guaranteed.

@Nick P,

These videos are by Simon Singh (I get to correct his name, too) that you said you'll read some day! Where are we with that, huh?

[1] By the way, I don't subscribe to his argument about debunking the Big Bang theorem, regardless whether I believe in it or not.

chrisMay 10, 2016 3:27 PM

@Bruce: I'm older, and I'm not very Semitic looking, ...

So nice to see someone use "Semitic" in the sense that includes the persons (Arabs?) intended by the prejudiced person. Usually people use it as though it were a synonym of "Jewish", as in "I'm not very Jewish-looking..."

Nick PMay 10, 2016 5:15 PM

@ Wael

Haven't bought them or had much time to do real reading. Been skimming papers and posts, collecting materials to help the field out, commenting on them, distributing, and so on. The usual. I stopped to check out 12 Monkeys reboot which actually got good a few shows in. Mentally tracking and preempting them where possible across half a dozen timelines was fun. Still gotta read that excellent AI book that traces its history and with many insights. Great read but hundreds of pages, too. Still gotta read Liars and Ouliars... All time and brain consuming esp given state of my brain. :)

Anyway, I was interested in the work. Do you have any links to articles or videos about the material in the books? Or are the ones in your recent post indicative of it? I'm definitely going to watch the 6 minute one but holding off on other unless you say it's *really* worth it.

Dirk PraetMay 10, 2016 5:57 PM

@ Wael

this is how a proper Muslim's turban looks like, any questions?

Looks Afghan-Pakistani tribal style. Certainly not Shia, Turkish or Kurdish. Never seen it worn over here or in France.

@ Anura,

I heard that the top physicists in the country can cause an airplane to drop out of the sky by whistling gravity equations into the headphone jack.

The "Descendo" spell apparently works too. I suggest immediately flagging folks reading Harry Potter to the flight attendants as well.

@ DavidFMM

I'm sure that the number of Americans that don't "follow" the Kardashians far outnumber those who do.

So am I. But I'm certain that stupid woman flagging the economist totally did.

Dirk PraetMay 10, 2016 7:15 PM

@ albert

I haven't flown since before 911, but I was profiled even then. Since I look like an evil version of Bruce (sans ponytail at that!), I'm a little concerned. :)

I feel your pain. Last time I flew into the States, a woman from South-Carolina sitting next to me told me I looked like an East-German terrorist from the first "Die Hard" movie. And I had even cleaned up my act, because I usually look like a biker or a Ramone on steroids. It's a no-win situation.

Clive RobinsonMay 10, 2016 9:11 PM

@ The usual suspects,

As you are probably aware in the UK we have our own loonie left, right, and non-multiculturists, with some in "a truely British way" trying to br all three simultaneously (Nigel Farrage, and Ken Livingston being but two of many)...

Well it's given us our own version of "see something, say something" politics and thus humour as a kickback (I predict the US will start to develop this as well if "Trump Triumphs").

So time for a little kickback, as they say "it's all written in the stars",

http://buzzthump.com/racist-ukip-councillor-can-predict-future-advice/

WaelMay 10, 2016 10:27 PM

@Clive Robinson,

As you are probably aware in the UK we have our own loonie left, right, and non-multiculturists

Pretty common in most countries.

... if Trump Triumphs [...] say "it's all written in the stars"

Got it, this time without a hint! In other words, a disaster (diss Aster)! I hand back the "warped sense of humor token" to you :)

PS: Cute link.

Clive RobinsonMay 10, 2016 10:39 PM

@ Wael,

A Quick glance down the lost of phobias gives,

    Aichmophobiafear of sharp and pointy things (needles, knives, etc.)

I know for a fact that this can be a learned phobia, as any time as an NHS patient will show :-(

Though I do wonder if aichmophobia also includes red hot paper clips applied to toe nails?... If it does then I now have it.

Many years ago now I decided to re-do the kitchen, part of which was tearing up the flooring which was adhisive lino tiles on hard board. Whilst doing this I was "wearing steel toe cap boots" for safety...

Having torn it up and stacked the large pieces outside near the back door I decided to take a tea break and discovered I needed to nip out to the shops. So I started to change back into my trainers, where upon the wind caught one of the stacked up heavy pieces and it guillotined down onto my big toe, that was now only protected by a sock. Apart from a quick pain that produced the usuall "Aw bugherit" response it went numb. Whilst getting the required bit for a cupper the numbness wore off, and was replaced by an intense pain that felt like someone was driving an iron nail through the toe, how little did I realise that this was a portent of things to come...

On getting home I decided to look at the big toe... Which was now not just swollen but a nice cross shade between blue, purple and black, as well as looking like it was at an odd angle . The thought occured that I might just have crushed the bone etc, so should get up the hospital and get it checked out. After sitting there with the toe now throbbing like stage three gout, --which feels like some one is trying to cut the toe off with a rusty hacksaw if the toe is elevated, but like it's dipped in molten steel if put on the ground-- little did I suspect it could in fact get even more exoticaly painful... There is an expression of portent which is "Beware Greeks bearing gifts", well I wish to add "Medical personnel bearing paper clips" to that list. The reason is the nurse told me --probably correctly-- that the pain exquisite as it was, was due to preasure building up under the nail and this needed to be relived, if I was to not lose the nail. The way she described it, the proceadure sounded relatively painless... Let me assure you there are worse lies than statistics, there are those "angels of mercy" have that they glibly tell all day, with such practice you are effortlessly conned into agreeing... The proceadure was simple, to make a small hole in the nail such that any trapped blood that was causing the swelling thus pain could escape reliving both. It was only after I agreed that she got out a small meths burner and paper clip. On sensing my reluctance she said that melting a hole was better than drilling... Thus the paper clip was bent, and gripped in those lockable forceps, and heated to cherry red in the meths burner flame, and applied to the toe nail... I can not describe the pain, it was compleatly alien to me, I thought I could imagine white hot molten iron but was I ever wrong, this now rapidly cooling dull red iron was indescribable, unlike the primal scream I let out, which must have caused those patients within ear shot to pale and feel the cold hand of trepidation reach out to clutch their vitals as to what their fate would be, should they venture behind the curtain of cubical seven. But worse was to come... The blood did not flow, so the nurse took a firm grip and squeezed, how I did not bite the end of my toung I do not know, but my grip on part of the gurny was such I put a finger through the tough outer vinal covering... Thankfully even though the nail did not drop off for some weeks the lasting effect on the toe was minimall. Not so my mind, there are nights, when I see that near invisable meths flame and the paperclip glowing and wake rather rapidly with heart pounding and gasping for breath. The doctor tells me it's my mind playing tricks, and what is happening is I'm stopping breathing due to other medical issues, and the brain is using memories to wake me up to sit up so I start breathing again... Me I'm not so sure, because behind that light I see the nurse's shadow on the wall, and it reminds me of the shadow in "Quatermass and the pit"...

WaelMay 10, 2016 11:26 PM

@Clive Robinson,

Whilst doing this I was "wearing steel toe cap boots" for safety...

Okay, we're familiar with that construct! You air-gapped your toe in a grounded faraday cage.

that was now only protected by a sock...

Geez. See what happens when your OPSEC becomes sub-optimal? And no one subverted your shoe, either!

Thus the paper clip was bent, and gripped in those lockable forceps, and heated to cherry red in the meths burner flame, and applied to the toe nail... I can not describe the pain, it was compleatly alien to me,

That sounds terrible! I wonder what hurts more: what you experienced or "bamboo underneath fingernails"...

Not so my mind, there are nights, [...] I'm stopping breathing due to other medical issues, and the brain is using memories to wake me up to sit up so I start breathing again...

Yup, I know that pleasant feeling. It's called Sleep Apnea. People wear one of these devices during sleep to help.

AndyMay 10, 2016 11:34 PM

Forget any prejudice against Muslims and ignorance of math. See what happened today in Chapel Hill, NC; town of University of NC: 5000 students in an elementary, middle and high school went into lockdown because someone saw a runner carrying a backpack. http://chapelboro.com/featured/three-chapel-hill-schools-off-lockdown
Lockdown means no class, no talking, getting under the table or locked in bathrooms and closets. It lasted half an hour.

ouch_that_hurtsMay 11, 2016 12:34 AM

I once dropped a potatoe-sized rock on one of my big toes. It hurt for a bit, but then quickly quit. Several days later, it turned to the color of a dark purple rose. Once the nail was off, a slight breeze was almost as painful as a gentle kick to the dick! ;-)

True story -- except for accurate the depiction of pain-levels -- it was a prepubescent experience. Do I recall poorly, or was I more resilient back then? Probably both, I'd guess...

I remember my 'wisdom teeth' removal much more clearly. I won't elaborate too much for now, but I feel like, in some cases, there's a trade-off between intense instant pain and lasting lessor pain.

Dirk PraetMay 11, 2016 7:47 AM

@ Clive

As you are probably aware in the UK we have our own loonie left, right, and non-multiculturists, with some in "a truely British way" trying to br all three simultaneously (Nigel Farrage, and Ken Livingston being but two of many)...

However much Ken has gone off the deep end, I still very much support his "hang a banker a day" proposal.

Miguel SanchezMay 11, 2016 11:19 AM

@Steve

Personally, I think the biggest danger here is economists using higher math.

The woman was reported as being Welsh, though I have not confirmed that.


One false positive out of xxxx number of incidents? It happens. It sucks, but it happens.


I did not see any major story feeling they needed to explain why this was a bad situation. Because everyone gets that. Same reason Trump is getting just a little bit of blowback from his anti-immigration stances. People get it.

And, yes, bad folks can be anyone, any name. Was just commenting on the stupidity of the situation.

ianfMay 11, 2016 2:40 PM


@ Thomas “It might not be entirely fair to criticize a lady who identified what she thought was a threat to society.

I could go along with it provided that she CONSCIOUSLY identified the mark as an economist, hence fair game for economy-class grassroots revenge, but I suspect that she wouldn't been able to spell that right. As it is, we'll never know which it was, 'tis a pity.


@ Wael can't let go of his pet theory The Italian Connection (il collegamento italiano)

Heard of this guy, @ianf?

Of course, siamo questo 👌 spessore, we have to stick together (almost like Clive and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall… it's a well-known fact they have tea with crumpets every Thursday at Fortnum and Mason).


@ milkshaken “a chemistry student at Uni of Toronto named Ali was interrogated, because his Windows user name was "Chemistry Ali"

Well, OBVIOUSLY it doesn't pay to be onomastically ignorant of world affairs… WTF was he thinking choosing a nick that's practically indistinguishable from (Saddam Hussain entourage) suspected Iraq WMD-honcho Chemical Ali?


@ Clive […] “Aichmophobia – fear of sharp and pointy things (needles, knives, etc.)

If you say so. Of course, those conditions become more and more interesting (in a clinical sense of the word) the closer they get to castration anxiety which, however, has yet to be called a phobia, and thus far has had to contend itself with mere plebeian anxiety.


@ ouch_that_hurts […] once dropped a potatoe-sized rock on one of his big toes.

How big was it, in finite ISO terms of weights and measures… as big as a thomato with delusions of grandeur for deployment as a typical clown's red nose?

Green SquirrelMay 11, 2016 5:39 PM

Not sure if I've been trolled here but:

One false positive out of xxxx number of incidents? It happens. It sucks, but it happens.

Erm, what?

Did I read that right?

Are you saying that this event is "one false positive" out of a number of genuine terrorist events which have been prevented by quick thinking passengers reporting it to the flight crew who then get the nasty terr off the plane?

Really?

Miguel SanchezMay 11, 2016 8:17 PM

@Green Squirrel

Not sure if I've been trolled here but:

Well, my response was to "steve". Anyone's open to respond, but ...

Are you saying that this event is "one false positive" out of a number of genuine terrorist events which have been prevented by quick thinking passengers reporting it to the flight crew who then get the nasty terr off the plane?
Really?

No. Not really. I did realize it could be misunderstood after writing it.

No, I mean what is obvious: one bad event out of actually really very few. The point is people should not get scared (just as they might rightly condemn others for operating out of fear -- "terrorist! terrorist!"), like this is likely to happen to them.

One bad event out of countless flights with zero bad incidents.

And, no, I think the obvious paranoia of this lady was really as bad as anyone else does.


The human mind has difficulty accurately processing risk.

Schneier posts on this over the years.

We tend to have the most anxiety over the most severe events, regardless of how uncommon they are. And, conversely, ignore the more statistically likely threats.


Like, being afraid of flying, when driving is more dangerous.

tyrMay 11, 2016 8:48 PM


@the usual suspects

This is all about the pendulum swing of society as it
surges back and forth impelled by the desire to appear
involved in the great questions of the day. Without
it the phenomena of the pageant which finally leaves
the excited exhausted and ready to swing back towards
a dejected apathy wouldn't give them something to do.

If you can't understand the changes you see around you
the usual primate response is jumping up and down as
your shriek and throw excrement at random (or at past
tormentors ). trying to explain to folk who never in
their life went more than five miles from their birth
place how the modern technology of high speed travel
and an international economy effects them falls into
the same category as trying to discuss relativity in
depth.

So between the effects of the institutional controls
and the desires of those who want unchangeable firmness
we are left with the spectacle of over reactions in
every situation.

However our lives are brightened by the tales of the
toes as morality plays for OPSEC, life is good if
you retain a sense of proportion.

WaelMay 11, 2016 9:29 PM

@ianf,

... can't let go of his pet theory The Italian Connection (il collegamento italiano)

It's a conjecture! A conjecture, capito?

almost like Clive and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall… it's a well-known fact they have tea with crumpets every Thursday

I think not! He prefers to eat recipes he invented back in the day. Tea and Trifles is what's on the menu this Thursday :)

ouch_that_hurtsMay 11, 2016 10:20 PM

@ianf

It would be incredibly dishonest of me to give you any "finite ISO terms of weights and measures" when I did not make any effort to thoroughly document or preserve the original samples…

If I had to guess though, I'd say it probably had delusions of helplessness, while still being big enough for a tiny clown!

Or, are you asking about the swelling? In that case, no - not that I recall. Just some discoloration followed by the shedding. (I am starting to think that many of us are beginning to drift wildly off-topic, but at the same time, maybe not so much ;)

Clive RobinsonMay 12, 2016 5:14 AM

@ Wael, ianf,

I think not! He prefers to eat recipes he invented back in the day. Tea and Trifles is what's on the menu this Thursday :)

That recipe is technicaly a "junket" or "curd" not a trifle by modern standards. The renet is an extract from a calfs stomach that is used to curdle the mixture to extract the equivalent of whey from it, thus it is the equivalent of a sweet cottage chease, you would get a similar effect with whisking rose hip syrup into rhicotta or at a push even creamy thick greek yogurt.

As for members of the house of Windsor, I've met a few of them over the years and even got an appology out of one in the Isle of Wight. But no I do not frequent those sort of circles these days because I like my privacy way way to much.

WaelMay 12, 2016 10:02 AM

@Clive Robinson, @ianf,

That recipe is technicaly a "junket" or "curd" not ...

I wish you hadn't gone there! One intriguing thing about dish names the English chose... "Clotted cream" is a bit weird, "Bangers and Mash" is a step down on a logarithmic scale, but "Spotted dick"? Cut me some slack! That just sounds like a ... disease, not a desert! Can you imagine placing an order at a restaurant: waiter, I'll have Bangers and Mash for the main intercourse! And ummmm a Spotted Dick for desert (implies an expectation the first dish will have a visible health effect on a certain structure.) I won't say anything about "Junket", either.

Perhaps @ianf can use his vast vocabulary base to help you come up with different names :) Alternatively, you guys could learn something from ze French or Italians, yes?

Miguel SanchezMay 12, 2016 10:43 AM

This article reminds me of when I first heard the most glowing of references for Schneier: waaay back when, late 90s, 2000, 2001, one of my coworkers who worked in cryptography saw and recognized Schneier at an airport, and happened to have a copy of 'applied cryptography' on him which he stated he got autographed.

This from a young man who had already worked in cryptography at two different governments, and personally knew the major hacking luminaries of the time (Pond, Mudge, Dildog, etc).

WaelMay 12, 2016 11:52 AM

@Scared,

Uh oh. Someone named Abdul has...

Short comment: No one is called "Abdul"

Not so short comment:

"Abdul" isn't a proper name. It's a word composed of two parts, and the proper name is normally composed of three parts. First, "Abd" means: Slave, Worshiper, or Servant. "Ul" is "Al-", the definite article, which means "the", in Arabic. So "Abdul" translates to: "Slave of the", "Servant of the", or "Worshiper of the".

Muslims follow "Abd" with one of the 99 names of God. Abd ul Jabar (as in Kareem AbdulJabbar), Abd Allah (Abdullah), Abd ul-Karim, Abd u-Rahman, ...

Arab Christians also use: Abd ul-Masih (Worshipper of [the] Christ), Abd u-Salib (Worshipper or savant of the cross), etc... [*]

Arab Jews also used similar names. This is especially true for Iraqi and Tunisian Jews...

The only proper two part "word" of "Abd..." is "Abdu". The "u" at the end is a contraction of "uhu", which ends in a "subject pronoun" that refers to one of the 99 names ("Abdu" basically means: His Servant; his referring to God.)

Just saying, so that next time you hear that name, you understand what it means... And if you call someone "Abdul" and he gives you back a grouchy look, then you'll know why.

[*] In some words, the "L" is silent, and in others, it's pronounced. See Sun and Moon letters

Nick PMay 12, 2016 12:03 PM

@ Wael

Interesting explanation and naming convention. Grouch look... Hmm, does that mean calling someone "slave or servant of the..." without a last word implies they're a slave of or bitch to arbitrary things? Or everything that comes their way? That would be especially insulting. Or is it just the speaker's ignorance that makes them grouchy.

WaelMay 12, 2016 12:08 PM

@Nick P,

Or is it just the speaker's ignorance that makes them grouchy.

They're always grouchy, regardless :)

Wonderlic 14 maxMay 12, 2016 5:29 PM

If you ask amateurs to act as front-line security personnel, you shouldn't be surprised when you get amateur security. Right. Leave it to the elite pros honing their junior spy cadet skillz in the too-stupid-even-for-a-cop dumping ground of White Man's Welfare:

https://info.publicintelligence.net/NJROIC-TransportationSecurity.pdf

AH- OO-GAH-OO-GAH, GENERAL QUARTERS! there are no credible specific threats but somebody acted strange, AH- OO-GAH-OO-GAH!

Green SquirrelMay 12, 2016 5:54 PM

@Miguel Sanchez - thanks for the clarification, sorry for the misunderstanding.

MeMay 13, 2016 9:37 AM

To be fair, terrorists aren't an existential threat to America, economists and bankers on the other hand...

James SutherlandMay 14, 2016 7:55 AM

"they could have looked at his name on the list and seen he was Italian."

Which, of course, is no guarantee at all that he's safe or not a terrorist .. as another poster already mentioned, there's Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber". If terrorists all carried Saudi or Pakistani passports, they'd be much easier to identify and contain - which is one reason they don't, of course.

Back a few months after 9/11, I was flying from London to Chicago with a Canadian national in the seat beside me. Reading a book in Arabic, with a Pakistani visa in his Canadian passport. At one point, praying out loud with a blanket over his head. It did cross my mind that someone was trying to see just how many profiling boxes he had to tick before someone would react to it in some way...

Of course, thanks to political correctness, anywhere other than an airport/airliner you could probably walk around wearing an Al Qaeda T-shirt chanting "death to the infidel" and be tolerated up until you actually kill somebody - indeed, in the UK back in 2006, a convicted drug dealer named Omar Khayam joined the protests against Denmark over the cartoon depiction of Mohammed, wearing a fake explosive belt, and still no action was taken at the time! (Since he was still out on parole from his sentence for drug dealing, he did later have to account for his actions to the parole board.)

So, you can appear in public with a fake *bomb*, that's OK - but write down some algebra? That's suspicious enough to take action right away! Depressing.

Skip StevensMay 15, 2016 5:08 AM

I think the government should require that all passengers be involuntarily medicated before each flight with the infusion of nitrous oxide into the passenger cabin until all passengers lose consciousness. Isolating the cockpit's air from the passenger cabin's air should be no problem. This would eliminate any threat from the passengers, would eliminate the need for flight attendants (saving the airlines money) and would eliminate the need to feed and entertain the passengers as well. After landing, the passenger cabin's ventilation would be infused with a resuscitating chemical and everyone could disembark safely.

This security procedure should be readily accepted by the public as the public has already been indoctrinated into accepting forced medications in the name of 'public health' from their childhood.

(I am sure that there are already some in government who have already thought of such a ridiculous scheme in a very serious context. At the very least, some might suggest that such medication could be released into the passenger at the moment of a perceived threat, as a matter of TSA security protocols. Watch and see if this doesn't come to pass!)

ianfMay 15, 2016 5:55 AM


@ Skip… can't be done. Both the inflight movie/ music/ entertainment AND the onboard catering industries would protest VE-HE-MEN-TLY on account of jobs losses and, the horror the horror, projected quarterly earnings losses, thus lower federal tax revenue and the like. Clearly, you don't mess with that in an election year, or, for that matter, EVER.

mbMay 16, 2016 5:15 PM

Flip-flop blondie terrorized by differential equations ... it's brilliant.

JamesMay 17, 2016 12:47 AM

what's next? a schoolboy getting escorted by the FBI for doing his homework at the school bus because an idiot school mate don't understand algebra?

StefanMay 17, 2016 2:23 AM

Hmm... privacy screen protectors for laptops, anyone?

See something, say something can quite well be countered by showing nothing.

Cheers!
Stefan

WaelMay 17, 2016 4:15 AM

@Stefan,

See something, say something can quite well be countered by showing nothing.

I see that you're hiding something, and that's what I'll say! To some nosy folk, "showing nothing" is showing too much ("hiding something".) Such is the world we live in.

J9 BossMay 17, 2016 6:17 PM

I am appalled yet not surprised by the superiority complex of his arrogant, blond seat mate. Because she could not capture his interest, communicate on his level of intellect nor understand the mathematical problem that he found more intriguing than herself (meaning he was academically superior) she chose to have him knocked down a few pegs. The scary thing is the crew listened to her ignorance above his elite intelligence. I fear what would happen to my brilliant, italian theoretical physicist.

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