Friday, October 28, 2011

TSA Outrage Roundup: One Week In America

Behold, a partial listing of search terms that led people to my blog in the past couple of weeks:

TSA took my hair straightener

TSA inappropriately touched my scrotum

TSA hurt my breasts

TSA VIPR Tennessee

Can I carry shampoo on a plane

Andrea Abbott (the woman arrested for being "belligerent and verbally abusive" because she didn't want some TSA thug's meaty paws running over her daughter's crotch)

Sabrina Birge (the TSA ignoramus who told Abbott “No, it’s not an X-ray ... It is 10,000 times safer than your cell phone and uses the same type of radio waves as a sonogram,” because she's too stupid to know that sound waves and radio waves are vastly different things)

Thedala Magee (the gate-rapist who sexually assaulted Amy Alkon and then had the sociopathic chutzpah to sue her victim for $500,000, after Alkon identified the rapist by name)

And I'm sure I'd've had even more TSA-related blog visits, if I'd had the time to write about the TSA agent who found a vibrator in a woman's luggage and left her a perverted note. Or if I'd said anything about the driver's license checkpoints that Tennessee state troopers will hold on Halloween under the aegis of the DHS, TSA's Orwellian parent organization. Then, too, there's the huge clouds of chlorine gas TSA deliberately released into the Utah desert. The woman detained by TSA agents because she wore hand lotion which was mistaken for an explosive ("They had told me laughingly that this happens all the time," the woman later said). The woman approached by a BDO not because he had security concerns, but because he wanted to flirt with her.

And the links in that last paragraph only cover stories from the past week. How much longer will it be before we finally scrape the TSA dogshit off the sole of America's shoe?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Oakland PD: Those Who Make Peaceful Protest Impossible

I haven't been following the various Occupy movements very closely, though a few weeks ago, when the movement was new, I wrote a post mentioning my complete agreement with the movement's basic complaint "the system is rigged to benefit the rich at the expense of the poor."

And I deplored the reports of police responding to the protests with violence, and also noted this:
John F. Kennedy famously said “Those who make peaceful protest impossible make violent protest inevitable.” Why don’t the police learn this in their academies? Do the fools – and the greater fools who speak approvingly of their misbehavior – not realize that if enough people decide the system cannot be reformed from within – if enough people decide outright revolt is the only answer – then all is lost? If violent revolution comes to this country, whether from the left wing or the right, then whatever phoenix rises from the ashes will almost certainly be something much, much worse than what they burn down.
And last night, the even greater fools in the Oakland police department responded in force against the non-violent protesters, going after them with tear gas and rubber bullets, and one of those bullets shot Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen in the face. According to the Huffington Post, Olsen's roommate Keith Shannon said Olsen "was simply one of the marchers. 'He was just hit by a projectile,' said Shannon, who did not attend the march but heard about the incident from eyewitnesses. 'He wasn't near a police officer when it happened'." After shooting Olsen, police lobbed a flashbang grenade at the people who went to help him. Olsen is now in the hospital, unconscious and with swelling of the brain.

Twenty years ago, I would have been shocked and surprised to hear American police chose to attack bystanders rather than protect them. Not in today's America.

In related news, British writer Jeff Berwick, fortunate enough to have an outsider's view of the country, published an essay titled "The US is fast becoming a third world police state." It's worth reading in full, but I'll quote only the small section discussing Occupy protesters in Phoenix:

The photos coming out of the US continue to look like something you'd see in a country like North Korea or in the old Soviet Bloc.

This photo, from a small gathering of Occupy Wall Street protesters in Phoenix, shows that not only the police outnumbered the protesters but showed the level of intimidation and force used against just a few people sitting in a park. Their crime? They were there after "curfew". I've been searching my copy of the US Constitution for any reference to curfew but have yet to find anything.

Yeah, well, I've been searching my copy of the constitution for any references to where it says you must submit to government agents fondling your genitalia if you want to travel within the borders of your own country, and I can't find anything either. Nor can I find where it says the president can order an American citizen executed without trial.

I want America to go back to the "free country" we used to be. And I don't want the country I have now to erupt into violent revolution. And I grow evermore terrified and evermore pessimistic, fearing I'll be disappointed in both.

Jumping The Shark: SPLC Edition

The Southern Poverty Law Center has long been a solution desperately in search of a problem, but they absolutely jumped the shark last week when they claimed that a "Nullification Now" conference sponsored by the Tenth Amendment Center was actually a hotbed of dangerous far-right extremism.

Who are these terrifying nullifying right-wingers that so concern the SPLC? Conference attendees included "Roughly 100 people [who] attended the conference organized by the Los Angeles-based Tenth Amendment Center, a group focused on how to weaken the reach of the federal government through nullification. Their central idea—that each state has the constitutional right to invalidate and disregard virtually any federal law—relies on a spurious interpretation of the Tenth Amendment, which reserves to the states and the people any power not explicitly given to the federal government, and flies in the face of more than two centuries of jurisprudence. .... There were also representatives from groups advocating for the legalization of raw milk—to limit the government’s regulatory power to ensure food safety."

Seriously. The SPLC now slaps the "far-right extremist" label on anybody who thinks the federal government is overstepping its constitutional bounds, including left-wing crunchy-granola hippie types who want to drink raw milk.

Somebody should read them the fable of the boy who cried wolf. One of these days, the SPLC really is going to uncover a terrifying racist threat to the republic ... and not a soul will believe them. At the very least, the SPLC should learn to distinguish between “racist terrorists plotting armed insurrection” and “three lonely teenagers who meet in mom’s basement after school to tell racist jokes and bitch about people they don’t like, and call themselves the ‘Valiant Kickass +17 Spell of Awesomeness Totally Cool Saviors of the White Race Chicks Dig Us,’” and according to SPLC mailings I’m supposed to freak out because there’s a VK+17SATCSWRCDU chapter less than 250 miles from me, and they’ll be able to make that trip to my house in less than five hours if their leader passes his test and gets his drivers’ license next month.

A friend of mine who grew up in Birmingham reports that, as of the late 1990s, the highest-ranking black employee at the SPLC was the janitor.
A photo of high-ranking SPLC executives looks little different from a photo of the high-ranking members of Stormfront. And if the SPLC wants to call me a bigot because I support the Bill of Rights in its entirety, tenth amendment included, the SPLC is cordially invited to kiss my left-wing libertarian ass.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Another Brick Out Of The Wall

Noting that a building’s collapsing is fairly simple, but detailing the downfall of each individual brick impossibly complicated. So too it goes for anyone trying to note every little detail of the collapse of the America I knew, an America that could plausibly lay claim to being the freest country in the world. But here’s a few of the small bricks that tumbled, just in the last week or so:

The state of Tennessee isn’t usually described by such terms as “progressive” or “forward-looking,” but on Tuesday it won praise from Homeland Security for being the first state to deploy TSA agents on Interstate highways. Agents of the not-at-all-ominously named VIPR squad – you might remember them from such fiascoes as grope-searching Amtrak passengers (including a nine-year-old boy) in Savannah after they finished their journey and disembarked from the train – were deployed at weigh stations and bus stations throughout the state. Officials admitted the VIPR deployment wasn’t in response to any particular threat; Tennessee Highway Patrol spokescop Tracy Trott discussed the importance of paying attention to detail and reminded people (seriously) that a police officer caught Timothy McVeigh after pulling him over for driving a car without a license plate. Of course, police already had the power to pull over unlicensed cars; they don’t need mass searches and interrogations of truck drivers on the highways.

In New York City, a narcotics detective surprised exactly nobody when he testified that cops routinely plant drugs n innocent people to meet arrest quotas.

Alabama proposed ending the problem of illegal immigrants taking farm jobs away from unemployed Americans by having prison laborers take farm jobs away from unemployed Americans.

Some Occupy protesters were arrested for being disruptive in a Citibank, and it turned out the loudest and most disruptive of all was an undercover cop presumably goading people so he could arrest them. The arrested protesters were lucky, by modern American standards; at least the cop didn’t plant drugs on them too.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

History Can Bite Me (First World Problem Rant)

I actually miss the days when the History Channel was all Hitler all the time, because at least Hitler and the Nazis were actual history (if not necessarily the sum total of it), as were "Hitler's Bodyguards" and "Hitler's Inner Circle," "Hitler's Rise to Power" and "Hitler's Fall from Power" and even "Hitler's Dry Cleaner," if that's what they're reduced to. But I just went through what my cable-on-demand calls "history" offerings, and found nothing remotely historical about any of it. Screw ice road truckers, screw pawn shops, screw hairy bikers and double-screw anyone who takes Nostradamus or Mayan Apocalypse 2012 seriously ... just because such shows deserve to be history doesn't justify their presence on that channel.

Marketing suggestion: take this stuff off History, give it its own network, add a cooking show featuring easy recipes for meth and roadkill, and with History subsidized by ad revenue from the White Trash Channel you could afford lots of new documentaries about Hitler, and maybe even a show or two about something historical that doesn't require a swastika.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Devils In The Details

I've paid little-to-no attention to details of the alleged Iranian terror plot our Fearless Leaders have uncovered, though I gather it involves wicked Iranians wishing to kill a Saudi Arabian diplomat on US soil. (Only a truly wicked country, like Iran, would want to attack an official from a freedom-loving nation like Saudi Arabia, America's chief ally and casus belli in this-here war on terror).

But I let my mind drift out of focus rather than pay attention to the specific details of the plot, for the same reason I drift off when homeless schizophrenics go into detail regarding just how the Illuminati and the Jews use poisonous jet contrails to control the populace: once I recognize a steaming pile of shit, why worry about details like "Just how many undigested corn-kernels of truth might be in here, anyway?"

Or maybe the Iranian terror plot is not bullshit, this time. It could happen; even the boy who cried wolf told the truth once. I was discussing the matter with my friend Thoreau (who blogs at Unqualified Offerings) and he asked a pertinent question: How is it that Khaled El-Masri (who was innocent) gets sent to Bagram after being captured in Europe, but Iranian spies trying to hire Mexican drug cartel assassination squads are sent to court?

I suspect El-Masri's innocence is exactly why he didn't go to court. That would make the US look pretty stupid, trying to convict a guy who's entirely innocent. Remember: where the "war on terror" is concerned, finding and stopping actual terrorists is not the government's primary concern; if it were, the FBI would not consider "goading unstable teenagers into attempting half-ass attacks so they can be arrested" a better use of resources than "finding people willing and able to commit terrorist attacks by themselves." If stopping terror (rather than inflicting it on innocent people) were the government's chief motivator, the TSA would pull a few people off molestation duty to check the contents of airplane cargo holds instead.

Seriously: where our Fearless Leaders are concerned, what the hell difference does it make if the Iranians are guilty or not? It's actually better and more convenient if they are innocent, because shipping them to foreign torture chambers and inventing stories about what they did is a hell of a lot easier than actually finding and producing evidence sufficient for a conviction in a court of law.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Even Drones Can Fly Away

So: if the United States claims the right to use robotic attack drones to kill American citizens in foreign countries, does that mean we’ll say nothing when China inevitably uses drones to kill dissidents who have gone into exile?

As an American patriot, I suppose I should be outraged upon learning some unknown enemy infected the military’s robotic kill-drone fleet with a computer virus. Instead, I’m disappointed the virus wasn’t worse; if the drones won’t boomerang back to attack their operators, I’d at least like them to explode harmlessly over unpopulated areas. A mere keylogging virus isn't enough to make the government back down from using them.

Once upon a time, I would’ve opposed the use of war robots on the grounds that robots cannot tell the difference between (for example) an armed fighter and an unarmed civilian. But the human soldiers we have over there don’t bother telling the difference either, so it would be hypocrisy for me to oppose robots on such grounds. Instead, I oppose them because they’ll result in the US getting involved in even more foreign wars than the variety pack we’re fighting already.

In all my life there hasn’t been a day when the US wasn’t fighting some war or other, declared or undeclared, because the government thinks “Why not go to war? We can hurt the hell out of them, and they can’t even touch us,” and war stopped being the option of last resort and became the status quo.

On the other hand, if I take a long-run view of things, I should support the military’s use of drones because inevitably, once they perfect the technology, our rivals will copy it in short order. When I see the first drones flying over my neighborhood, will they belong to my government, or some other?

Foolish question; they’ll be our drones, of course, after local police departments across the country add them to their ever-expanding repertoire of military hardware for use against citizens. (No wonder they call us civilians now.)

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Occupy Wall Street. Or Something.

I haven’t seen what-if-any actual concrete policy solutions are being proposed by the Occupy Wall Street movement, nor even why its members figure occupying Wall Street makes more sense than Washington, but I completely agree with the assumption behind it: the system is rigged to benefit the rich at the expense of the poor. What I don’t know is, what-if-any politically feasible chance there is of fixing it.

Nothing surprising in the reports of police violence; cops have had a hostile, us-versus-them mentality toward the public they presumably serve and protect ever since they started referring to us as “civilians.”

John F. Kennedy famously said “Those who make peaceful protest impossible make violent protest inevitable.” Why don’t the police learn this in their academies? Do the fools – and the greater fools who speak approvingly of their misbehavior – not realize that if enough people decide the system cannot be reformed from within – if enough people decide outright revolt is the only answer – then all is lost? If violent revolution comes to this country, whether from the left wing or the right, then whatever phoenix rises from the ashes will almost certainly be something much, much worse than what they burn down.

Or perhaps I’m just getting carried away. Experience tells me American complaint and protest movements tend to fizzle out into nothingness – but there’s always the potential to prove experience wrong.

Check out the individual anecdotes on the We Are The 99 Percent blog. A few of the case studies suffer from the same problem I mentioned in my last post: people whose financial difficulties stem chiefly from their own poor decision making, rather than the poor economy. (Advice: if you’re 20 years old, still in school and unmarried, having a baby now is a fantastically bad idea even if you’re not deep in debt.)

Even so, the system is rigged. Most of the 99-percenter posts complain of high rates of student loan debt, and I see something not merely corrupt but outright evil in a system that will spend limitless amounts of public money to spare billionaire financiers the humiliation of being demoted to mere millionaire status, but offers no forgiveness – not even the option of legal bankruptcy – to some poor twentysomething whose only “crime” was having been a teenager naïve enough to believe what every adult authority figure had ever told her: “Go to college and work hard, and you can make a better life for yourself. That student-loan debt is good debt. It’s a wise investment!”

That was definitely true in the Baby Boomers’ day. And still mostly true in mine – but even then, in the four years I went to Cheap State U., in-state tuition costs at CSU rose almost 70 percent, and have risen at similar rates ever since.

Now? Student loans are definitely a wise investment for the banks who make them – the government “guarantees” such loans via making it illegal to discharge the debts in bankruptcy. Rack up gambling debt in a casino, max out a credit card on whiskey and temporary tattoos – that debt can be forgiven if you prove you can’t afford repayment, but college debt cannot. The student loan debacle is almost entirely a government creation: the government backs the loans, the loans inflate the tuition costs, and government then denies students the “clean slate but bad credit score” bankruptcy option offered almost every other debtor in the United States.

When I was in college applying for federally subsidized student loans – the ones where the feds paid the interest until I graduated and started making payments – I calculated the maximum amount I could borrow, plus the amount of interest the feds were going to pay, and I really wished they would’ve offered the option “We’ll just give you the interest outright, in exchange for which we won’t subsidize any loans for you.”

But how would the banks make any money that way? Other than the bailout money they get as a reward for screwing up, I mean.

Look at much of what’s wrong with America today. The war on drugs: there’s no money to get medicine to sick people who need it, because we’re spending it all imprisoning sick people who take unapproved medicine. The Endless Wars in Asia and the Middle East: there’s no money to repair our own country’s crumbling infrastructure, because we’re spending it all bombing other countries’ infrastructures into rubble. The TSA’s war on American flyers… in each instance you can say “Behold, another situation wherein poor nobodies suffer while rich guys with political connections get richer.” There’s lots of money to be made imprisoning drug users and confiscating their property, making bankruptcy-proof loans to students, building drone bombers and nude scanners and ad infinitum.

So yeah, I’m a capitalist and a libertarian and still I empathize with the 99ers who say “The game is rigged.” I don’t agree with all their arguments or individual anecdotes, of course, but the basic recognition of an inherently unjust system? Hell, yes.
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