You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.

>> Tuesday, July 08, 2008

"These litigants will survive and go to trial!"

The geniuses at the Department Of Homeland Security are now considering the feasibility of replacing airline tickets with wrist bracelets that function as combination GPS trackers/Tasers™.

No, I'm serious. Go read the article in the Washington Times. Watch the manufacturer's video promotional video. Come on back when you're done, I'll still be here.

See? And you didn't believe me. You did the exact same thing I did when I saw this on Slashdot: you said, "What... the... fuck‽" Right down to the interrobang, which may or may not have rendered in your browser depending on font settings. (Didja know that was an interrobang, by the way?)

Yes, the DHS thinks you'd be a happier passenger on those long airplane trips if you had the added convenience of having an electrocution device strapped to your wrist.

"See, it makes checking your bags so much --BZZZZZZZTTT-- oops... sorry about that.... You okay? Right, so when you're checking your --BZZZZZZZTTT-- damn! I didn't mean to do that! Sorry! What the hell is --BZZZZZZZTTT-- wrong with this thing? You didn't get it wet when you washed your hands in the restroom, did you? Oh. You weren't --BZZZZZZZTTT-- supposed to do that...."

Hell, what am I talking about? It would be a mercy if the damn things merely malfunctioned. Considering the horror stories one hears about autistic kids being kicked off planes, passengers being kicked off planes for wearing shirts with political messages or skimpy clothes, and passengers being kicked off of planes for praying, it seems inevitable some poor asshole will be electrocuted because a flight attendant doesn't like his haircut or something. Pity the poor rock guitarist who gets totally shitfaced inadvertently drinks a thimbleful of light wine after taking half of a mild over-the-counter sleeping aid during a transatlantic flight.

"I'm sorry --BZZZZZZZTTT-- miss, but you're going --BZZZZZZZTTT-- to have to -- BZZZZZZZTTT --stop-- BZZZZZZZTTT-- snoring. It's disturbing --BZZZZZZZTTT-- the other passengers --BZZZZZZZTTT-- and it's --BZZZZZZZTTT-- driving --BZZZZZZZTTT-- me --BZZZZZZZTTT-- nuts! --BZZZZZZZTTT--"

I haven't flown in ten years, actually. And this is why I don't have any particular desire to fly now, frankly. Good grief, is this some kind of bizarre conspiracy to bring back the romance of rail? If it is, Amtrak really needs to get their shit together, because I hear their incompetence and scheduling delays are totally off the hook at this point. Is somebody trying to make travel by bus more attractive? I remember taking the Greyhound in college and discovering it was completely unlike anything Simon And Garfunkel had misled me into expecting. (I don't know if you ever noticed, but the lyrics to that song do not mention the words "motor oil," "urine" or "rancid sweat" even once; I don't know, maybe bus travel was radically different in the '60s. Or maybe the experience is improved by burning one behind the bus station before you stagger around to the ticket counter. Actually, I hear that improves a lot of experiences.)

Where do they find these people? Seriously. Political patronage and nepotism only go so far in explaining a level of cudgelheaded stupidity that implies an epidemic of childhood paint-eating among the Washington elites. Washington, famously, was built on a swamp--perhaps the CDC needs to be enlisted in searching out some form of mosquito-borne mental retardation that's flitted from bureaucrat to bureaucrat on clumsy, buzzsaw wings.

"How the hell would I know which one's a terrorist, Dan? Just zap coach and tell Steve to land the fucking plane."

One suspects Orwell was worried about a nefarious, Machiavellian government taking over the reins of power for the ends of the cynical individuals clawing their way to the top through treachery and oppression. And why not? That's really the way it mostly used to work, back in the day, with some party apparatchik--an undersecretary or something--greasing the wheels of the party machine with the blood of his opponents. Metaphorically speaking, of course, I mean I suppose sometimes they might pay someone to drop a toaster in a rival's bathtub or wrap a bit of wire around someone's neck in a way that wouldn't necessarily break the skin. What Orwell probably didn't count on was well-intentioned asstards creating a voluntary dictatorship greased by drool. If this whole little scheme comes to pass--people wearing potentially-lethal tracking devices (what the fuck, did these people watch too many Christopher Lambert movies or something?), it will be because some well-meaning idiot is sold on the notion of a non-lethal way to maintain airplane security and manages to convince another idiot that it will allow him to skip a line or something when he gets to the airport. Hanlon's Razor will slit all our throats in the end, I suppose.

"I was kind of mad about biting off the tip of my tongue when they zapped me by accident, but they bumped me up to business and comped my drinks, so it was totally worth it."


vince Tuesday, July 8, 2008 at 9:36:00 PM EDT  

Damn, you beat me to it - that was gonna be my rant tomorrow. That's okay, you did a great job. I'm beginning to think we need a revo-fucking-lution!

John the Scientist Tuesday, July 8, 2008 at 9:43:00 PM EDT  

You know what really offends me?

The American who came up with this had ancestors running from tyranny that could not even imagine such tools, but would have leaped at them. This is exactly what Ben Frnakin had in mind.

You know, every decent Southerner has to grapple with the race thing. I think I'm as free of the disease as it is possible for a sighted human being to be. Yet at times like this, I am damn glad that the blood of Rebels runs in my veins. Because we need the spirit of Lee that opposed Succession and Slavery (at least eventually), yet still chose to flip the big ol' Bird at Washington. That's why I don't want the Rebel flag taken out of our State banners.

This is also why I'm a Libertarian. Statists on the Right and Left make this shit too easy.

Matt Warnock Tuesday, July 8, 2008 at 10:36:00 PM EDT  

Wow, those are some damn fashionable bracelets. How could anyone think that would be a good idea? I wonder how dated that product is since the video said the security doors on the cockpits should be installed by '03? And if I get an e-ticket, which I always do, am I going to get some kind of massive static shock out of the printer?

My favorite proposed mode of travel (I think it saw it on Boing Boing) is Ninja Airlines, where a ninja comes and knocks you out with a dart and then you wake up at your destination in your hotel with your clothes neatly placed in the dresser.

I'm uncomfortable enough on a plane (hot and cramped) without having a shock collar strapped to my wrist.

I experienced travel on a private jet about a month ago, and that is the only way to fly.

Matt Warnock Tuesday, July 8, 2008 at 10:38:00 PM EDT  

Also, you might win a prize for most links in a single post.

Nathan Tuesday, July 8, 2008 at 11:35:00 PM EDT  

Disclaimer: I worked 15 hours today, just stopped a little while ago, and maybe I shouldn't have drank that last Jameson's so fast.

First reaction is horror, but I absolutely understand why some people think this is a good idea. Unfortunately, these are the same people who want airport security for the subway and think they should get 700 gazzillion dollars from the government if they miss some bomber who manages to blow something up. It won't matter if they lost a relative...they're going to be scared for the rest of their lives and the Government is a fine thing to blame.

Second: If this actually ever happened, I'd sure as hell never fly again.

Eric Wednesday, July 9, 2008 at 12:11:00 AM EDT  

The main problem with Ninja Air is that they only go after their targets one at a time. So they're surprisingly inefficient as a carrier....


Ilya Wednesday, July 9, 2008 at 8:46:00 AM EDT  

As much as I am horrified at the prospect of this "innovation" coming to life, I just cannot honestly imagine it ever happening. Nathan and I are going to stop flying, Eric does not fly at all, and I am sure a few other folks will join us in that. The entire airline industry is going to go bankrupt. And don't you guys all believe that corporate interests is what ultimately drives American laws and regulation? The industry will never risk losing such important customers as Nathan and I...

Eric Wednesday, July 9, 2008 at 11:47:00 AM EDT  

Ilya, I hope you're right. But I just don't know: there are a lot of ways in which most of us have already compromised our privacy for convenience, including some things I'd never have imagined subjecting myself to ten or twenty years ago.

This particular notion--the electrocuting ID bracelet--seems particularly ludicrous because it conjures mental images worthy of a Python sketch or a South Park episode. (Indeed, the malfunctioning implanted v-chip from the South Park movie seems an obvious reference point.) But I can also see this being sold to consumers as a benefit--"Acme Air is a safer way to fly," "Acme Air business class customers who fly with an Acme Air SecurTix WristPass(TM) bypass the inconveniences of check-in and board early," etc. And then it's eventually as commonplace as letting your grocery chain track every purchase you make in exchange for a noticeable discount on roast beef or waiving practically all of your Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights while using public streets and highways in exchange for the privilege of driving.

One hopes the public-at-large will draw the line at being electrocuted. But one fears they'll instead say, "Hey, I'm not a terrorist, so I'll never get shocked, and I no longer have to get to the airport four hours before my flight."

Either way, the bracelets are a hysterically bad idea. Let's just hope they remain a fantasy.

Jeri Wednesday, July 9, 2008 at 2:42:00 PM EDT  

I am a 40K miles a year airline passenger. I fly WAY too much, although it's mostly to and from Anchorage, with a few diversions to Denver, Las Vegas and California. My experiences tend to be indifferent to mildly idiotic. I *never ever* check baggage and *never ever* make critical plans that depend upon my flight being on time.

The dance of the hours at security is abso-fucking-lutely hilarious. You'd think that most semi-conscious adult Americans would have some idea what to do. You'd be wrong. I am both a good traveler and a bad - I know what do do at security and have it down to a science, but I also carry everything on, and travel with lots of electronics.

When are they going to just suck it up and require every traveler to migrate through a complete strip search booth? Seeing travelers put their belts, watches, glasses, shoes and jewelry back on, and reassemble their luggage, it seems like we're almost there anyway.

All that said... GPS/taser bracelets? That must have been the same dipshit that came up with the idea for implanted RFID tags for guest workers. Good lord, 1984 is here now and Big Brother works in the TSA as a frustrated middle manager.

I would not waive privacy for convenience (enabling cookies). I would not sacrifice comfort for low prices (hello, Southwest Airlines!) And I would not tolerate more pervasive advertising for more extensive content and/or services - I no longer read my local paper online because of the float-over ads.

I think I'm going to trade in my small-l libertarian card for the keys to a hermit's cabin. Anyone want to join me? (Of course then I wouldn't be a hermit. Details, details.)

Ilya Wednesday, July 9, 2008 at 4:35:00 PM EDT  

Hermit's cabin sounds fantastic for me, Jeri... The wife, unfortunately, is more of a bright-lights-big-city type of girl...

Jim Wright Wednesday, July 9, 2008 at 4:40:00 PM EDT  

See, I think it's a great idea - except I would make it a GPS/Taser collar, and instead of a taser I'd make it an explosive guillotine ala The Running Man - see, that way we'd know that we are living in tyranny, there'd be no more doubt and even the fucking neocons would finally get the goddammed message.

Osama Bin Ladin must be laughing his fucking ass off.

Jim Wright Wednesday, July 9, 2008 at 4:43:00 PM EDT  

Ilya, speaking of explosive taser devices - was that you that pissed Scalzi off the other day? Dude, seriously, the man doesn't like advice when it comes to his actions. One thing I've learned (and so did MWT if I remember right) is don't give Scalzi advice on his own site - even if he is acting like an ass. Just saying.

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