Sunday, July 24, 2005


So... exactly how many millions of tax dollars did you spend invading privacy and breaking the law, Mr. Obermann?

Occasionally a government agency does something so brainless that it actually merits a Proxmire Golden Fleece award. Sen. William Proxmire, who created the awards, unfortunately spent too much time railing against things that he simply didn't understand. For example, he gave a Golden Fleece for funding research on the sex life of the cockroach. It made for a good laugh line at campaign events, but there are a lot of pest control companies and their customers who would like to know a lot more about exactly when and how cockroaches get it on so they could promote cockroachis interruptis. My guess is that a third of Golden Fleeces were deserved and the other two thirds were political gimmicks. Not one of them was close to what Bushco does on a daily basis. One wonders what Proxmire would make of the Transportation Safety Administration managing to simultaneously (a) break the law. (b) invade the privacy of Americans on a mass scale, and (c) waste tax dollars to discover that there is more than one person named John Smith in the United States [T]he agency actually took 43,000 names of passengers and [like the state of Florida in its assault on voting rights] used about 200,000 variations of those names - who turned out to be real people who may not have flown that month, the GAO said. A TSA contractor collected 100 million records [what they bought at the grocery store, whether they like Jack Daniels or gin, which doctors they visited, what movies they rented, etc.-- 5000 (!) records per person] on those names. Justin Oberman, the TSA official in charge of Secure Flight, said that was a highly instructive test. "When you cannot distinguish one John Smith from another, you're going to get records from John Smiths who aren't boarding flights on an order of magnitude we can't handle," Oberman said. So... exactly how many millions of tax dollars did you waste discovering this, Mr. Oberman?
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