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Why John Smith Can't Fly

Thursday, Mar. 15, 2007 12:24 AM

At the heart of the no-fly list is an algorithm called Soundex.

Simply put, Soundex takes a given name, strips the vowels from it, assigns numerical values to the remaining consonants, and rates that against a database of potential terrorists.

But if you want to see how well the system actually works, visit and run your own name through Soundex. A single red-highlighted name does not mean you'd be flagged; however, the more red highlights that appear, the more likely you are to get tagged.

Osama Bin Laden generates three highlights on the first name, and a single highlight on the last name. George Bush yields five highlights and ten highlights, respectively.

(It should be noted that the above site is operated by S3, a company that offers another terrorist-matching algorithm, and is for demonstration purposes only. They claim a 96% accuracy rate with only 4% false positives � i.e., passengers who aren't terrorists being flagged � as opposed to Soundex's 15% accuracy rate and 85% false positive.)

It should also be noted that 38 senators, all Republicans, voted against implementing the recommendations of the 9-11 Commission. Why?

Because they don't want TSA screeners to get limited union protections.

That's right, addressing the shortcomings and vulnerabilities identified by the Commission are less important than preventing those uppity screeners from unionizing, and perhaps getting a pay raise, or better working conditions.

Incidentally, one of those thirty-eight senators is Chuck Hagel.

Oh, we're soooooo sorry that this matter with Alberto Gonzales intruded on your gourmand's tour of South America, Mr. President.

I'm sure you were hoping for lots of happy, smiling photo ops to distract the public from the whole Scooter Libby mess, and here's Alberto, stepping in a fresh dung pile.

And what the hell is with Dan Bartlett's bumbling, "We didn't know about it, but ultimately the White House signed off on it"? You approved something you didn't know anything about? Surely, that could never happen on your watch!

George, you appointed Alberto Gonzales. Harriet Miers has been admiring your dust ruffles or whatever for years, sending you mash notes like she was the president of your fan club ��or perhaps your personal cheerleader (although I thought that was your wife's role � not Laura, the other one, Condoleezza).

For you to say you didn't know what they were up to, or that hey, there were problems, but we're going to fix them now is wholly disingenuous.

That's a fancy word for saying you're a bald-faced, cattle-thieving, low-life, yellow-bellied liar.

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