The Google Says Pun Salad is Your Go-To Blog For …

I am not making this up. [Cathy
Poulin]

But most people coming here from the Google are looking for Ms. Cathy Poulin, pictured at right. If you don't know Cathy, you don't watch a lot of TV in the Northeast United States; she's Public Relations Director for Bob's Discount Furniture, and appears as Bob's annoying sidekick in their television commercials. There's just something about her that makes you want to grab the laptop and ask the Google who is that irritating woman in the Bob's Discount Furniture ads?

Frankly, a fan site for Ms. Poulin is overdue. (And, for the record, I'm sure she's a fantastic person in real life, a good dancer, and that her whole on-air schtick is an assumed persona.)


Last Modified 2012-10-23 1:36 PM EST

The New Terrorism Meme: What, Me Worry?

Bruce Schneier is a well-known cryptologist and computer security expert. So it's worth paying attention when he offers his opinion on terrorism; he's not totally unqualified.

But his latest effort, entitled "What the Terrorists Want" is a misfire. In fact, the overall thesis is very similar to James Fallows' Atlantic article about which I blogged here. Briefly: by definition, terrorists hope to accomplish their goals by provoking fear in the populace; this is causing us to overreact and engage in counterproductive behavior.

Schneier's essay is condescending ("I'd like everyone to take a deep breath and listen for a minute."), simplistic, and confused. He advises against "panic"—as if anyone's for it. He advocates thinking "critically and rationally"—he's no doubt in favor of regular exercise and a good diet, too. Like Fallows, he points to policies he doesn't like as being based on "fear", but doesn't really show that they are.

Schneier cites a number of false alarms that caused evacuations, redirected flights and delays. The unstated assumption is that the real culprits are "fear" and "overreaction." But any security system will have false alarms that have to be checked out; the only way to avoid them is to have no security whatsoever. Schneier knows this, almost certainly; it does his essay no credit to pretend otherwise.

I also found this ironic: he links to a 2004 essay of his as to what he says "our government can and should do to fight terrorism", which includes:

The only effective way to deal with terrorists is through old-fashioned police and intelligence work - discovering plans before they're implemented and then going after the plotters themselves.
… which is, more or less, exactly what happened recently in Britain. But apparently, the 2006 version of Schneier can still find room to pooh-pooh:
In truth, it's doubtful that their plan would have succeeded; chemists have been debunking the idea since it became public. Certainly the suspects were a long way off from trying: None had bought airline tickets, and some didn't even have passports.
Schneier is very demanding about "old-fashioned police and intelligence work", I guess. It's fine, unless it works too soon, i.e., before tickets are bought on the planes you're planning on blowing up.