The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Schneier on trusting the government and the laptop ban

Security expert Bruce Schneier weighs in on the ridiculous airplane laptop ban the Trump administration and the British government imposed last week:

This current restriction implies some specific intelligence of a laptop-based plot and a temporary ban to address it. However, if that's the case, why only certain non-US carriers? And why only certain airports? Terrorists are smart enough to put a laptop bomb in checked baggage from the Middle East to Europe and then carry it on from Europe to the US.

Why not require passengers to turn their laptops on as they go through security? That would be a more effective security measure than forcing them to check them in their luggage. And lastly, why is there a delay between the ban being announced and it taking effect?

One analysis painted this as a protectionist measure targeted at the heavily subsidized Middle Eastern airlines by hitting them where it hurts the most: high-paying business class travelers who need their laptops with them on planes to get work done. That reasoning makes more sense than any security-related explanation, but doesn't explain why the British extended the ban to UK carriers as well. Or why this measure won't backfire when those Middle Eastern countries turn around and ban laptops on American carriers in retaliation. And one aviation official told CNN that an intelligence official informed him it was not a "political move."

In the end, national security measures based on secret information require us to trust the government. That trust is at historic low levels right now, so people both in the US and other countries are rightly skeptical of the official unsatisfying explanations. The new laptop ban highlights this mistrust.

But to the Trump team, distrusting government is a feature, not a bug. They just may not have thought through all the consequences.

Are y'all for real?

No. Just no. Really, no, they're not:

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) admitted as much as he left the meeting Friday. Reporters asked why, after Republicans held dozens of nearly-unanimous votes to repeal Obamacare under President Obama, they were getting cold feet now that they control the levers of power.

“Sometimes you’re playing Fantasy Football and sometimes you’re in the real game,” he said. “We knew the president, if we could get a repeal bill to his desk, would almost certainly veto it. This time we knew if it got to the president’s desk it would be signed.”

Barton, for what it's worth, was one of the loudest proponents of ACA repeal. Until, you know, it was possible.

Why does anyone take the Republican Party seriously? I mean, really?

You don't have the votes, you don't have the votes!

Despite controlling two of three branches of government and most of the third, the Republican Party suffered a humiliating defeat this week when Paul Ryan couldn't muster enough votes to destroy health care in the U.S. We can all breathe a little easier:

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, facing a revolt among conservative and moderate Republicans, rushed to the White House Friday afternoon to inform President Trump he did not have the votes to pass legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to decide whether to pull the bill from consideration.

The president and the speaker faced the humiliating prospect of a major defeat on legislation promised for seven years, since the landmark health legislation was signed into law. President Trump had demanded a vote regardless, which has been scheduled for Friday afternoon. But House leaders were leaning against such a public loss.

[Ryan] said 30 to 40 Republicans planned to vote “no”; House leaders can afford to lose only 22 votes and still pass the bill.

So 24 million Americans get to keep health insurance, and we can actually move a little closer to parity with the rest of the developed world.

Stranger than fiction

The Washington Post chronicles how President Trump's difficult relationship with the truth extends even to trying to correct the record:

President Trump had a remarkable interview with Time magazine on March 22 about falsehoods, in which he repeated many false claims that have repeatedly been debunked.

Trump consistently astounds us with his inability to acknowledge that he repeatedly gets facts wrong and consistently misleads the American public with inaccurate, dubious claims. He earns Four Pinocchios for this interview.

Not surprisingly, it's a pretty long fact-check article.

De-Mosesing New York

New York Times developer Jeff Sisson has put together a mapping application that can remove highways from New York:

Imagine there’s no highway, it’s easy if you try—even easier, since now there’s a map for that. With this latest cartographic venture, you can make the concrete superslabs and soul-sucking underpasses that are the scourge of urbanists everywhere disappear with a mere click.

This is the vision of Jeff Sisson, a developer at The New York Times who dabbles in the kinds of stuff we consider CityLab catnip. You might remember him from such projects as mapping New York’s bodegas. His latest effort is called “NYC (& The World) Without Highways.”

Highway removal in real life is expensive, time consuming, and politically challenging, as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will inevitably discover as he plots a pricey demolition of the Bronx’s Sheridan Expressway.

Maybe there's one for Chicago in the works?

Sears Death Watch

Sears Holdings Corp. now admits its totally foreseeable and totally preventable death may happen soon:

Sears Holdings Corp. acknowledged "substantial doubt" about its ability to keep operating, raising fresh concerns about a company that has lost more than $10 billion in recent years.

The retailer added so-called going-concern language to its latest annual report filing, suggesting that weak earnings have cast a pall on its future as a business.

How did this happen? Eddie Lampert killed it, possibly for sport.

Did I miss a scare piece on Fox News?

Apparently we're now frightened of everything:

Passengers on foreign airlines headed to the United States from 10 airports in eight majority-Muslim countries have been barred from carrying electronic devices larger than a cellphone under a new flight restriction enacted on Tuesday by the Trump administration.

Officials called the directive an attempt to address gaps in foreign airport security, and said it was not based on any specific or credible threat of an imminent attack.

The Department of Homeland Security said the restricted items included laptop computers, tablets, cameras, travel printers and games bigger than a phone. The restrictions would not apply to aircraft crews, officials said in a briefing to reporters on Monday night that outlined the terms of the ban.

The new policy took effect at 3 a.m. E.D.T. on Tuesday, and must be followed within 96 hours by airlines flying to the United States from airports in Amman, Jordan; Cairo; Istanbul; Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia; Kuwait City; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

Because, hey, if it's illegal for the administration to block people coming from those countries, maybe we can simply make them not want to come here? Oh, right. This is only going to stop people who need to work on those long flights; i.e., people we probably want to come here.

Great work, DHS. Nice.

Wait, didn't they kill all the bookstores?

Amazon is opening an actual brick-and-mortar bookstore right by the Southport Brown Line stop:

On Tuesday, it will open the doors of a brick-and-mortar store in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood, giving customers a chance to test the e-commerce giant's take on offline shopping.

It's just one 6,000-square-foot neighborhood bookstore. But it's also one of Amazon's first experiments with live customer service and cash registers, and a sign that one of the retail industry's biggest disrupters may not be content to stick to e-commerce.

Amazon is still in the early days of its bookstore experiment. The first location opened in Seattle in late 2015, and the Chicago store, in the 3400 block of North Southport Avenue, will be Amazon's fifth, and first outside a mall. It opened briefly on Saturday as a test and is expected to start regularly scheduled hours Tuesday.

The question, of course, is "why?" I'm going to watch this space.