Quick Catchup Items: TSA, ROTC, Filibuster

... to get these out of the inbox, and then offline:

1) Many people have sent in mentions of this story from Sacramento, about an airline pilot who posted a YouTube video of what he considered "security theater" aspects at an airport. (Thorough inspection of air crews; no inspection whatsoever of baggage handlers, maintenance people, and other ground crew.) A few days later federal agents and sheriff's deputies arrived at his house, and he is apparently under investigation and in trouble for disclosing "sensitive" security info.

A few weeks ago, the TSA actually apologized for the episode in which a young mother was detained in a glass security cube, and missed her plane, because she didn't want to send a container of breast milk through the X-ray machine. We'll see what the TSA administrator John Pistole says about this one.

2) Last month I quoted a software engineer, William Vambenepe, on why he wouldn't go through the advanced TSA scanning machines: not that he was prudish ("I'm French") but because his professional experience made him doubt that new radiation-producing machines with new software could be faultlessly safe. He writes today with this update:

>>My fears seem validated by this report that no-one is inspecting the machines and ensuring that they don't deliver 100x the normal radiation level. Choice quote: "While the TSA claims that entities like the FDA, the US Army and Johns  Hopkins all regularly inspect their machines, none of these groups  agrees, and they all disavow any role in regularly maintaining and  testing the TSA's equipment".<<

3) Last week I said that the repeal of the military's DADT policy should pave the way for the return of ROTC programs to Harvard and some other elite universities. Michael Segal, of "Advocates for ROTC," writes a proposal, here, of how specifically this might take place.

4) A heartening end-of-year trend is new attention to abuses of the filibuster -- as the Atlantic's Josh Green points out here, and Ezra Klein here. When we wonder about dysfunction of the US government, it's worth realizing how much one person, Senator Mitch McConnell, has done to prevent the government from filling vacant judgeships and posts, considering economic and international legislation, and so on. If the historic extremes of this year -- in which McConnell oversaw the staging of 91 filibusters, or nearly four times as many as in the 1800s as a whole -- finally motivate Senators to reconsideration of the rules, there will have been some payoff.

Now, for real, signing off.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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