Lucky she's not in the morgue

I was quite surprised to read in the coverage of the arrest of Star Simpson at Boston Airport for having a handmade shirt with LEDs that lit up in a star pattern (to match her name) that State Police Maj. Scott Pare said “She’s lucky to be in a cell as opposed to the morgue.”

I find this a remarkable statement for a police officer to be saying about a bright teen-age girl. That we have come to the point where the Major can say something like this and expect everybody to nod in agreement. Had the police shot a bright and innocent teen-age girl, it would be tragic, but the regret on the part of the police would also have been great.

Those who do security have come to the conclusion that airports are really, really, special, so special that you can shoot girls who are not following procedure when they come to pick somebody up. The procedure in this case is a new rule about “improvised electronic devices” — namely homebrew electronics vs. something you bought at Radio Shack. You can’t bring them on the plane any more, and you can get shot for carrying them in the terminal. I have one myself, a hand-constructed power supply I need to convert the voltage from my laptop battery (which they let me bring on because it’s “standard”) and other equipment I have. I am going to have to put some logos on it to make it look official.

I have some understanding of the desire to secure the cockpits of planes so that suicide pilots can’t take control and use them as weapons. And there’s been a lot of hard work done on that. But for some reason we’ve also concluded that the non-secure areas of the airport are special, rather than being just like any other crowded place (like train stations, stadia, offices, restaurants and so on.)

Whatever they might say about what you can bring on the plane, now you can’t even have it going to pick somebody up at the airport. Simpson reportedly wore her shirt all the time around Campus, and just happened to have it on while going to the airport. She’s called crazy for bringing a “device like that” to the airport. This is the same town of course that shut itself down over LED ads for Cartoon Network that a score of other towns blithely ignored. Is this the guilt over having been the airport of choice for 9/11 terrorists?

The phrase “the terrorists have already won” is overused, but that they’ve gotten us to talk about shooting smart, innocent teen-age girls without blinking does seem to be quite a victory for them.

Just Boston or the whole US?

Having installed a rouge electronic sculpture while at MIT, this was my reaction also. Well put Brad. What is the world coming to?

Really, Boston is a schizophrenic city. To caricature just a bit, the locals (who speak with a hideous accent) are rude, racist, and stupid. The foreigners (Americans and internationals who are there for the universities and then out again) are intellectual, tolerant, and blithely indulgent of the locals' lame culture. The whole place is corrupt, from tow-truck drivers on up. Having lived there, I recognize that this idiocy of threatening smart kids due to ridiculous self-important paranoia is real and quite dangerous.

Yet, I have been surprised by the number of people in California who chide me that you're just asking for trouble to walk around with any kind of home-built electronic wiring showing. Paranoia is the norm. Fortunately new doors are always opening for creative people, as existing ones slam closed.

As a Bostonian for almost 20

As a Bostonian for almost 20 years, I have to take exception to that last disparaging comment about old Beantown. We "rude, racist, stupid" residents voted in same-sex marriage and statewide universal health care! California put Arnold Schwarzenegger into office!

I'm also connected with MIT, so I speak with experience when I say that some of the most benighted, intolerant, hypocritical, narrow-minded people I have ever met are these university intellectuals that Anonymous speaks of. The tone of Anonymous's comment is typical of many students, secure in their immature convictions, who categorize and pass judgement summarily on others without any forethought, compassion, or attempt at understanding.

Why can't universities teach shades of grey rather than black and white? This is the kind of thinking that got Star in trouble in the first place!

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