Bloggers I Have Met
Politicians have a tough job -- especially those with integrity. Their
employers (the voters) are, for the most part, less informed on the issues than
they are and can frequently be more easily swayed by passion than rational
thought. Even if there is nothing the government can do to help a
particular situation it may be a political necessity to "do something". In
the email exchange below I respond to an writer from Israel who is baffled by
our country's irrational changes in the visa system.
Although I didn't say it, this same writer has given his support to the
concept of a national or even universal identification card which can be
defeated in exactly the same manner as he describes for the visa system.
<shrug> As I state below, it is irrational to expect people to be
From: The Biometric Consortium's Discussion List On Behalf Of Huffman, Joseph
Sent: Tuesday, September 30, 2003 11:12 AM
Subject: Re: Foreign Visitors as potential Terrorists.
Sent: Tuesday, September 30, 2003 9:25 AM
So why spend $3.8 billion as a starter, when a terrorist organization can
procure authentic government documents by paying some government clerk a few
thousand dollars to create an authentic passport with an alias? The US
government does not have photographs of even 10% of all terrorist much less
their fingerprints. So what good will the visa system be in eliminating
My first off-the cuff comment is: It is irrational to expect people to be
But beyond that, as is the case with many political actions it's not about
solving problems it's about "doing something" about problems. From the
viewpoint of the politician it may actually be a rational thing to do. The
people at large, not the ones that have actually given the problem a few
minutes of thought, see that "we are doing something" and feel better. Had the
politicians told them the truth, "There isn't really much we can do to stop a
well financed and determined terrorist from entering our country and doing
damage." He or she would be quickly replaced by someone that promised them the
security they want even if it were impossible to deliver that security.
Almost for certain you already knew this but as scientists and engineers we
tend to forget that people, particularly large groups, do not act in a
rational manner. The passionate, good looking, but ignorant and dishonest
politician will be far more successful than the well informed, honest one
whose speeches put people to sleep and physical appearance is at the lower end
of the scale.
Senior Research Scientist
Cyber Security Group
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory