04 December 2010


FLYING HUMVEE. From the point of view of a military veteran and wannabe pilot, this news comes as disconcerting. DARPA, the Defense Department's research and development arm, is apparently working on a program to produce a combat vehicle which can transform from a ground assault troop carrier to a helicopter, at the touch of a button. The so-called Transformer would feature light-weight armor, bullet-proof windows, and would carry a maximum of only four personnel. At tepid speeds of 65 mph on the ground, and 150 mph in the air, it would be extremely vulnerable to IED or RPG attacks on the ground, or SAM attacks in the air.

Aside from unwieldy costs, vulnerability to attack, and the assumption that we are going to be fighting in Afghanistan for the long time it will take to actually put such a vehicle in the field, there is a glaring problem. Flight school for military pilots takes many months, at a cost of $1 million or more per pilot. Is the DoD seriously proposing that we place a trained pilot in every infantry squad in combat? Or are they just going to turn loose untrained pilots, and hope for the best? Something tells me that this project is not going to get off the ground -- but I could be wrong. It happens at least once a year.

TSA SECURITY THREAT. We've seen the videos of young children being strip-searched. We've heard the stories of grandmothers being intrusively patted down. Just when you think TSA couldn't outdo its own audacity, it does it again. A retired, wheelchair-bound dental surgeon, having suffered a TSA search which she likened to being sexually assaulted, decided to protest by showing up at the airport wearing nothing but black lingerie, covered by a coat. Knowing that her wheelchair would set off metal detectors, she opted for a pat-down search, in full view of other passengers. The subsequent hour of questioning and oh-so-thorough searching meant that she missed her flight. The event was recorded by another passenger. To paraphrase Joseph N. Welch, who confronted the paranoid bully Senator Joseph McCarthy during the Red scare hearings of the 1950s, "TSA, at long last, have you no sense of decency?"

So what happens if you do decline a TSA radiation scan, and opt for a physical search? Well, pretty much this is what happens. (Bend over and smile.)

BONUS. It's finally happened. You know how you sometimes go through periods when it seems like the entire universe is against you? Turns out it was. The Onion reports (tongue in cheek) that "Universe Admits to Wronging Area Man His Entire Life." I knew it !!

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