Archive for July, 2008

Invasion of the Body Scanners
July 21, 2008

And here I thought removing my shoes in front of fellow travelers felt a little too intimate. 


Now there’s naked. 


As in, please keep your clothes on; we’ll just use this high-tech electromagnetic digital imagery to see through them. 


On your next trip through security at Miami International, at the checkpoints where two new body scanning machines are at work, you will not be able to view the images they produce.  The screen and the screener work in a little room a few yards away from the machine so screener and passenger do not see each other.   


That separation is a nod to mitigating what feels like a brazen invasion of privacy, by keeping the image anonymous.  More anonymity, less need for modesty.   Reminds me of those hours of topless sunbathing in Mykonos that felt perfectly natural until some guy wearing a Florida Gators t-shirt showed up on the beach.


The ACLU has a big problem with the TSA’s new method of virtual strip search.   And I did, too, until I saw how it works.


It clearly works well.  Oh, so clearly.


The airport worker who gamely agreed to demonstrate?  


I saw him naked.  The Full Monty, 3-D and rotating.


That’s when I decided against plans to personally demonstrate body scanning for our 6pm newscast, for much the same reasons I decided to put a shirt on in Mykonos.


But for security reasons, so what?   


So what, if the one agent examining your virtual nakedness cannot see who you are, your face, your identity.  So what, if the agent cannot save, print or disseminate the images.  So what, if appearing as a faceless, nameless, fleeting Eve-sans-fig-leaf assures my plane won’t be blown up by someone who secretly tapes C4 plastique explosive to his/her skin.


I find the body scanning less intrusive than cameras in public places, less intrusive than federal agents that can trace my email list or the books I’ve read.    Scan my body, not my thoughts.


The process certainly makes more security sense than putting little bottles of liquids into a baggie, having to fight for my 3.4 oz bottle of perfume, or allowing butane lighters on board.


I want to have a problem with body scanning.  I really do.

But I really don’t. 


Anyway, anyone who objects to going through the machine has the option to decline.   But that may lead to a pat-down. 




Math Problems
July 8, 2008

Impasse?  That may be the understatement of the week.


The week of meetings between Miami-Dade teachers and the district (that is considering filling a budget hole by holding back some or all of their collective raises) were billed as bargaining sessions, but there was no bargaining.  Questioning, finger-pointing, bad blood – but no bargaining.


Not only are the teachers and their district not on the same page, they are not on the same bookshelf.


However this dispute ends, clearly there are no winners.  The view from an observer is – no clear bad guys or good guys, no black and white answers.


Faced with state funding cuts and rising costs, district officials have cut, and cut big.   Have they found fat and waste?  Yes, they have.  Is there more?  Depends on whom you ask and the perspective one has of how a giant, urban, socio-economic issues-plagued school district should be run.   


Then there is a teacher workforce that feels chronically underpaid and disrespected, and has little faith nor trust in the administration.  And that started long before these tough budget times, long before this current administration.


Complicating matters: constant finger-pointing, rampant rumors and misinformation circulated with indignation.


But wait, there’s more: election year political posturing, alliances and talking points.


Think this one is tough to cover?   


Here’s one bit of information that is hard to dispute: Florida’s schools, kindergarten through college, have taken one of the biggest hits in this year’s state budget.  For the first time, counties will bear more of the costs of their respective schools’ funding than will the state.  And the state already spends less per student than most.  A few years ago, South Florida school districts lost the District Cost Differential, the extra compensation from the state education budget for counties where the costs of living are higher.

Then came January, when voters approved a cut in property taxes.

Now comes a down economy, and the sales tax this state relies so heavily upon are not coming in as expected.  Boom, the latest cut.

Add to those, the rise in health care insurance, the FPL hike, gas prices that the district’s transportation network must pay, and so on.

But wait.  There’s more: come November, voters will be asked if they’d like to eliminate property taxes altogether.  What/Who will pay for public schools?  If anyone knows that answer, please email it to me.