Disenfranchised Citizen

Chicago, New Orleans and living a beautiful, angry life between the two…

Archive for the ‘Homeland Security’ Category

An open letter from a suspicious package…

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His name was Carl. That's right, he had a name. NOPD blew him up ten minutes later. RIP

That bag’s name was Carl. That’s right, he had a name. NOPD blew him up ten minutes later. RIP Carl…

Good morning.

Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a suspicious package. It would seem my brothers and I are causing a bit of a problem in the Crescent City these days. At the WWII Museum, at the Superdome, on Canal, on Poydras, on Rampart: though my first impulse might be to apologize for the actions of my wayward brothers, I can’t. I won’t. Not today, not ever.

You see, there once was a time where my brothers and I could be simply left alone to enjoy the sun, relax while holding a good book or maybe some gym clothes and we could do it alone. By ourselves. Everyone needs alone time right? Well, since that horrible day twelve years or so ago, it would seem that everybody and their mother feels we need to constantly be chaperoned. I mean, chaperoned all the time. Every minute of every day unless we’re tucked neatly into the corner of someone’s apartment or perhaps in the closet, a school or gym locker, anywhere out of sight and out of the sun.

It’s a fucking drag.

Seriously.

How would you feel if you always had to be slung over somebody’s back or swinging wildly from someone’s hands, knocking into shit, each and every time you were out in public. Don’t lie…you wouldn’t like it all. In fact, I’ll go on record right now saying that each and every one of you reading this would fucking hate it.

So why are we supposed to enjoy it so much?

Because we’re supposedly inanimate objects? Because we don’t have feelings, worries or concerns? Because we don’t like to be left alone in peace, maybe over coffee? A drink? Or as mentioned before, out in the sun, enjoying the heat, trying to suck up a little life from the warmth of the day?

Don’t tell me to get over it.

You wanna know what happens sometimes when one of us decides to take a risk and venture forth without accompaniment? I’ll tell you what, some asshole in a police uniform starts to attack us with robots. That’s right, your Terminator nightmares can be the reality for some of us…and what do those robots occasionally do? Sometimes they blow us the fuck up!

Sucks. It sucks a lot.

So keeping all that in mind, here’s a thought: maybe the package isn’t the one that’s suspicious. Maybe the suspicious one is actually…you. Let that sink in for a moment.

You are the suspicious one.

Why else would you call the police every time one of our owners lets us have a few moments of idle time, even if it’s done by accident? You say it’s a  vigilance thing, uh-huh. Beware of the terrorists, okay. Still, you gotta ask yourself who would be so demented as to intentionally allow one of us some free time in this day and age? Why, and for what possible reason? Oh, but I’ll tell you. Beyond the occasional absent-mindedness, there are certain criminal elements in society who have learned just how suspicious you all can be, and that you project your suspicions upon us, the package. They know what a distraction we are, that if we’re dropped on a corner the NOPD will get called, everyone will freak the fuck out and the majority of the police will respond to stare all loony at us while those who left us there are free to do whatever it is they didn’t want the police or people to see outside of the now cordoned off zone. That’s right, too often these days we’re just a convenient decoy to lure the police and press away from some of your brethren’s more dastardly deeds, such as ripping off your mortgages, stealing your pensions, cutting food stamps to the poor, killing off your schools, raising the rates on flood insurance and raising rents while destroying your public hospital systems ability to treat the poor both medically and emotionally.

How long do you think it’ll take before this trickles down and would be drug dealers and/or assailants realize that if they want to assault people in one block or deal on the corners of another all they need do is leave one of us, a suitcase, a backpack or a briefcase unattended on a bench two or three blocks away?

I know, it’s crazy right?

Nope…you are.

Crazy nervous…so many are hyped up by breathless news stories and stupid action flicks and lingering governmental-hyper-vigilance-report-your-neighbor campaigns. You need proof? Okay. How many surveillance cameras did you get spotted by today…and you didn’t even notice, did you? Of course not. Now you’re all way too used to that kind of thing. Warrant-less wiretapping? National Security letters to Google? Eric Holder accessing reporters’ e-mails without their knowledge? The attack on whistle-blowers? The militarization of police departments?  Yeah, all of it is so commonplace nobody blinks an eye anymore. Freedoms are being whittled away by the National Security apparatus, including your own NOPD, who thanks to a ruling today by the US Supreme Court can now take a DNA sample and store it away if you ever get arrested…that’s right, a DNA database on you.

That’s what’s crazy.

But hey, it’s your world isn’t it? We just get carried through it so go ahead, be afraid…but dammit, can’t you give us a break sometimes? Not all of us are all that suspicious and none of us like it when the bomb squad gets called in to blow our ass up all over the street. It’s positively inhumane.

Okay…I know.

Alright.

I know…I need to be fair and up front here.

Therefore, I feel I must also address those packages out there that may very well be “suspicious,” that one out of a hundred thousand, a million, a billion of us packages who might actually deserve such a label.

You! Knock it the fuck off!

Really, you too are responsible, albeit slightly, for this horrid state of affairs. I know…right now I can hear you all: bags don’t kill people, people kill people. Right, I got it brother…but you bare some of the responsibility. We all know how easy it is to just slip off the shoulder, loosen a strap and just go off. Real easy. So if one of your owners are up to no good, please…be responsible, take one for the team and blow up your owner, preferably when no one else is around. It is an honorable death, and in doing so you’ll make the life for those of us who harbor no ill will a whole hell of a lot easier. Remember how it was thirteen years ago? Before things got all crazy, I used to love spending fifteen minutes or so alone on a Moonwalk bench, feeling the sun and that Mississippi River breeze. Loved it, but now that people are so suspicious and afraid, such a scenario could be my death sentence.

And I don’t want to die.

I just want a safe five minutes alone, unsupervised, monitored or spied upon…in private, clear the head to focus on who’s really doing the wrongs out there.

Hey, maybe we could all use the time.

Hell, anymore suspicious packages and we all just might wind up with some goddamned Duck Tours in the French Quarter and if that happens, an unattended bag will seem like heaven next to thousands of tourists walking down Bourbon Street with quackers in their mouth.

Think about it…and thank you for the time.

Have a nice day.

9-11 Inc.

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Strange days...

Ten years ago on September 11th, I was in a place not unlike many Americans, essentially surrounded by Europeans in a Las Vegas youth hostel trying desperately to sleep off a hangover…but that morning I heard people chattering, something about burning buildings, plane crashes and how it all looked like a movie, and through my bleary-eyed state, at first I thought they were describing a movie, until it became clear they were discussing something else entirely. Don’t remember what detail finally sank in, but I do remember jerking up from the bunk, hurriedly getting dressed and heading down to the social room where the one television in the place blared on, surrounded by a  bunch of people staring at it, slack-jawed and disbelieving.

I stared too, for quite some time…

Then I did what most people did, I called my family and spoke to friends, to make sure everybody was okay, to touch base with something real, logical, something safer I could understand, and also to see if it would be best for me to continue my travels at the time or go home to be with family as soon as I could get there. Well, my mother and I decided I should stay put, in Las Vegas, and later that night I headed back to the Strip to see what, if anything the terrorist attacks might have changed on Las Vegas Boulevard.

Not much, actually.

People still gambled, maybe the tones were a bit more subdued, worry was a bit more pronounced, exhibited by glances at the news on all those casino monitors where previously, gambling instructions had played in an endless loop. People were drinking, there was more security in the casinos…oh, and there were a hell of a lot more flags. Flags everywhere, waving from every Jumbotron on the strip…you couldn’t turn without seeing a flag.

And now here we are, ten years later.

And those flags are still waving.

And 9-11 has become just as inescapable: movies, news programs, documentaries, divided histories, tributes, posters, commemorative coins, stamps, coffee mugs, shot glasses, silver spoons, posters, videos and t-shirts. 9-11 is an industry and yeah, I kinda have a problem with that, same as I have a problem with every politician who gives the overly patriotic speech, or demonizes his political adversary in the name of 9-11, using it to forward an agenda or to demonize a religion so to boost his or her own bullshit credentials. It’s a cheap shorthand for jingoistic intolerance and then that same politician will often use 9-11 as a campaign weapon, invoking it as proof of thier own red, white and blue beating heart, the purest example, further symbolized by a far-too-easy flag lapel pin: yeah, the people involved in these displays are parasites…parasites exploiting the dead, exploiting fear, exploiting a national and world tragedy, all for their own material and political gain.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t commemorative ceremonies meant to respectfully honor those who died that day, sincere words from sincere people without hidden agenda, who put country and healing first: these ceremonies do exist, and rightfully so, and I applaud them.

Personally, I won’t watch them but I applaud them nonetheless.

But then there is talk radio, there is political grandstanding, agenda setting and bullshit politicians who put on the flag like a superhero’s cape and go out of their way to prove their genitalia is way more patriotic than the other guy’s…and these types, these parasites expect you won’t know the difference between the shallow and the deep. 

Fuck ‘em.

They’re worse than parasites.

They are worms, feeding on the parasites.

So what’s the best way to honor 9-11?

Up to you, your choice of course…we do still have some freedoms left round here, but for me, it’s maybe a moment of quiet contemplation, a few minutes of silence for those who died and reflection about what exactly’s changed since that day, and how I feel about those changes.

And for me, I’ll keep the television and radio off. 

I’ll keep at arm’s length everything the media wants to sell me both during their 9-11 programming and the commercials in between, and then I’ll do what I did on that day ten years ago…I’ll contact some friends and family, make sure the people I care about are doing okay.

Just the way I do things I guess, kind of low-key, quieter…

Oh, and thankfully my memory is good enough I don’t need to pass a resolution to never forget something as unforgettable as the morning thousands of people died in a terrorist attack on American soil. Members of the House of Representatives apparently are not as fortunate in this respect…either that, or their memory is just fine and their resolution was only that much more political grandstanding.

Cough…cough…(parasites)…cough…

Have a thoughtful day.

Bourbon street, war, violence…and hey! Take it down a notch…with Rancid!

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Yeah, they got a big fan inside...huge, it'll blow away your bar napkins.

I used to know a bartender at Molly’s on Toulouse, small bar on Toulouse (duh) between Royal and Bourbon, and I loved the place…small, pool table, open windows to the street…old feel, and it was close enough to Bourbon and all the idiocy contained therein one could step outside for a smoke and look the half block up to watch fraternities, sororities, christianit-ies, stupidities and every other -ies, along with the more amusing level of criminalit-ies, without actually having to deal with any of it firsthand. A good distance, the kind of proximity that lets you watch it like a television show, harmless and unreal.

One of my favorites illegal scams was the stripper(s) at the Bourbon Street joint(s) who would entice the traveler to go to her place for something a little “extra” only to lead him down towards Burgundy or Rampart where her “associate” would be waiting to rob the drunken guy blind. Hey, live and learn, you wanna get that drunk and that stupid…well… Was a time I used to hang out, wait, and watch the unsuspecting be led away…I took a few of their pictures actually, just for the fun of it…

Anyhow, one day I was hanging out, slow Sunday afternoon and I heard a clamor, and being sporting enough I looked down that half-block to see what was the matter…this was back during the build up to the Iraq War, GW hadn’t officially thrown out the first pitch yet but he, Rumsfield, Cheney and all those other assholes had been throwing warm ups for weeks and brother, opening day was coming! Turns out though, there were a number of people worldwide who thought the idiotic invasion of Iraq was kind of well, idiotic and a number of New Orleans residents were no different. That day, they’d decided to march against the war (don’t get me started on the ineffectiveness of political marches, really, don’t) and for some reason, the planners of that march thought Bourbon Street was a good place for their parade to head on down…

It wasn’t going well.

You see, a lot of people on Bourbon Street were rather intoxicated.

And a lot of intoxicated people on Bourbon Street thought invading Iraq was a swell idea.

So, I left the front of Molly’s and ambled on over to the corner of Bourbon and Toulouse, cigarette and beer in hand.

It was hot, really hot that day and the sweat, well, you know how you can swim in it, so I was trying to see through perspiring eyes and the parade was loose, the people marching were having fun, but they were taking it from all sides. Being so soon after 9-11, this was a particularly patriotic time for the country and anger (fear) was at an all time high (remember the whole sealing up the cracks of your homes anthrax deal, in a French Quarter apartment…right!) Well, being a person who errs on the side of logic, has a lot of anger of my own and kind of thought this whole Iraq thing was a bit incorrect, I sidled up between a woman dressed in denim, big blonde hair and the reddest lipstick I’ve ever seen and a man who I assumed was her boyfriend, American flag t-shirt, cop sunglasses and a red bandanna wrapped tight round his sunburned head.

There appeared to be a conflict of philosophy going on.

The couple thought the protest marchers were incorrect in their belief system, felt they hadn’t thought it completely through and they were eager to help these wayward souls understand the error of their thought process… that, and implying they all must be homosexuals, or a specific part of the female sexual anatomy who apparently had lost their way somewhere between Moscow and Beijing…communists of some sexual kind. Being fairly new to New Orleans, a place I liked and like very much, I was always trying to make new friends so I felt I might have something to add to this conversation, and holding up my beer between them, which drew their attention long enough for them to hold up their beers as well, I let fly… “Hey you reds, go back to fucking Zaire!”

The couple liked that, the guy clapped me on the back and we grinned together and took another drink of our prospective beers and the woman, she turned to me then and said something about teaching men who apparently find it comfortable to wear towels upon their heads a lesson, oh yes…a very important lesson, a lesson patriotic as fuck.

I took that opportunity to make eye contact, directly and intense as I could muster, which apparently worked for she looked directly into mine when I responded, “Whatever man, I’m just very pro-death, so war’s cool and all, really, guns and such but for me it’s all about the blood, a whole lot of blood.”

She looked at me then, questioning, but I smiled again to put her at ease and raised my beer, “Blood!”

It was about this time she took two distinct steps to the left, away.

I laughed, raised my eyebrows, maintained the eye contact, shrugged my shoulders and added, “Bloody violent as fucking possible, blood, blood, blood…”

Then I laughed again, and I went for my cigarettes.

By the time I lit one, they were gone. So, the moral of the story? Ain’t one really…except I suppose, love it or leave it, when you ask anyone what they think of when one mentions New Orleans, especially if they have never been there, they almost always say “Bourbon Street.”

That and the fact that the town runs a great deal on tourist dollars so all these killings/shootings on Bourbon Street of late, they gotta stop. And since every time I read about another shooting I seem to invariably hear “100 block of Bourbon” or whenever a club is mentioned, I read “Bourbon Street Blues Club,” which round my parts with the people who know the town, BBB club is one big fucking punch line to violent stupidity, and since I keep reading these things, it would seem how a constant police presence at the corner of Canal And Bourbon, and also at Bourbon St, halfway between Canal and Iberville might be a good idea. Oh, and Serpas? You probably want to put a few out front of the Bourbon Street Blues Club as well.

It’s a thought.

Because when I mentioned being pro-death, I was just trying to creep out a couple of drunken tourists, but these shootings, well they’re creeping out a lot more tourists than I ever could and that ain’t a good thing. Having lived in a lot of tourist cities, the toleration of their species kind of goes with the territory. Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco and New Orleans, I can think of a number of days I swung open my gate onto Royal Street, took one look at all the people in t-shirts and sandals and said, “Oh, hell no, not today…” and the gate slammed as I went back upstairs to my apartment.

Anyways, speaking of tourist destinations…love it or leave it and the subtle war between tourists and locals…I offer the following, which is  just one of many songs mentioning places where tourists thrive, and where much of the locale might not want them to, but need them to anyway…New Orleans and San Francisco…and the tale of Operation Ivy’s end.

Rancid – Journey to the End of the East Bay

“Matty came from far away,
From New Orleans into the East Bay
He said this is a Mecca, I said this ain’t no Mecca man, this place’s fucked
3 months go by, he had no home, he had no food, he’s all alone
Matty said fool me once shame on you, didn’t fool me twice
He went back to New Orleans”

And if I told you how many times I listened to that song on Molly’s jukebox, beer in hand…you wouldn’t believe me. Okay, and please forgive me one more, for the sake of being momentarily egocentric…about the neighborhood in San Francisco I miss, a neighborhood I once worked and lived in…

Rancid – Tenderloin

Realize you’re dehumanized, you criticize your existence
It’s your demise when no sun arise, when you’re paralyzed by your lack of resistance

She know she is, she knows she’s going, down below where the fire’s glowing…
Tenderloin

The tricks she gets them she’s not a victim, she makes a list of them and reads them all alone
For money she’s walking down on Larkin’, in the TL they’re rocking all night long…

See you soon, friends of both regions…

And astonishingly enough…the war I mentioned earlier in this post…who’d a thunk the blood would still be flowing, almost ten years later.

God bless…and good luck.

Have a nice day.

So, they’ll get it right this time? Oil spills, mine disasters, levees and forgetfulness…

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Far better prepared for this picture, than an oil spill...

It would appear a pattern is developing in this great land of ours. Simply put, we begin with a tragedy, then we have an investigation which discovers the governmental agencies designed to prevent such tragedies either fell down on the job or didn’t care, and even worse, the fail-safe for the agency that didn’t do their job is woefully unprepared to handle the mess created. Next, we get public and government anger, utter outrage about the aforementioned tragedy and congress types propose bills, make promises and issue guarantees that a tragedy like this will never happen again, and damnit, we mean it…never.

At least until next time.

What? What happened to the guarantees, the promises and the bills?

That was so last week man, have you talked to my lobbyist?

In a recent report, it was discovered (surprise) that the US Coast Guard was not prepared for a large deepwater oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the unified response to the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe was continually troubled by this lack of planning. Government and private sectors “demonstrated a serious deficiency… (in) preparedness for an uncontrolled release of oil from an offshore drilling operation.” The panel also found many of the Coast Guard staff members interviewed “acknowledged that they were unfamiliar” with the plans to combat such a spill, “even though they held prominent positions” in the command structure for the response. Much of this is blamed on the changes to the Coast Guard, post 9-11. As their responsibilities were diversified, the oil spill response plan atrophied which resulted in problems with coordination and communication. From the report: “While the response plan by BP, the well’s operator, was criticized as unrealistic in the report, the government’s plans were also found to be inadequate and incomplete.”

Okay, given…anyone paying attention to events last summer could have figured out that both BP, the Coast Guard and state officials were caught with their pants down on this one, but…what happens now? New drilling permits are being issued, ten in fact (no matter what Vitter says).

“Capt. Ron LaBrec, a Coast Guard spokesman, said the Coast Guard was reviewing the recommendations and had already begun making improvements. (The Department of Homeland Security has requested an additional $11.5 million in its 2012 budget to help bolster the Coast Guard’s ability to respond to major spills, a department official said.)”

Improvements…

Perhaps a complete change might be more in order? One suggestion might be to immediately discuss and begin planning how to keep politics and corporate self-interest out of the equation.

If not, one might someday read an oil spill version of the soon to be even more tragic story about developments occurring since the Massey Mine disaster, which also happened last April and killed 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia.

If you don’t recall, there was outrage by Congress and the public that federal regulators didn’t have the power to close dozens of mines that had racked up thousands of safety and health violations (sound familiar?). At the time, both parties in Congress vowed swift action. They promised from their pulpits to fix this so no family will ever have to go through this kind of tragedy again.

A bill was proposed. It would have made it easier to shut down problem mines. It would have increased penalties for serious safety violations and offered greater protection for whistleblowers, and it took eight months for the bill to even reach the floor of Congress where two weeks ago, this bill was killed off, voted down by every single Republican and 27 Democrats.

In 2010, 48 coal miners died, the most since 55 were killed in 1992.

As retired miner, Fred Burgess said, whose stepson Ronald Mayor died in the Upper Big Branch explosion, “The miners should have a safer workplace, but the mine companies throw a lot of money around, they have lobbyists all over the place.”

Indeed, and to add insult to injury, it would appear lots of those lobbyists have been speaking to Rand Paul, who recently said in response to the MSHA’s (Mine Safety and Health Administration) new proposals which would reduce by half the amount of coal dust miner’s breathe, coal dust being the primary cause of  black lung, “”Every regulation doesn’t save lives…There is a point or a balancing act between when a regulation becomes burdensome enough that our energy production is stifled.”

Or in other words, “What he’s suggesting is to keep the cost of coal down we would jeopardize the health of coal miners,” said Stephen Sanders, director of the Appalachians Citizens’ Law Center.

Oh, and speaking of guarantees and promises, anybody remember a certain town called New Orleans and this little catastrophic failure they had a few years back, you know, where over a thousand people died when the levees broke, in several places?

Yeah, remember all those promises made back in 2005, to guarantee that would never happen again?

Well, it would appear those promises were equally hollow. The Army Corps of Engineers, responsible for building and fixing the failed levees, well…they’re working on it…going on six years later. Which isn’t to say improvements haven’t been made. They have, but do those improvements match all those guarantees and promises President and Congress types threw around during the flood’s aftermath?

Anybody want to by the Crescent City Connection?

Really, I’m selling…

But, back to the Coast Guard and their report. Whereas it’s great they are working on “improvements” to their response, it might be nice to see exactly what they are working on, how they intend to coordinate federal, state and local officials, how they intend to keep financial self-interest and politics out, how their own staff will be trained on any new plans that are so coordinated to ensure each administrative and governmental level is on board, you know, so we don;t wind up with useless sand berms.

It would seem if oil companies have a right to drill out there in the Gulf, and they are…Gulf Coast residents have a right to know what will be done, and a guarantee that it will be done to respond to another spill…even after the anniversary news coverage comes and goes.

After all, coal miners still haven’t gotten protection from cost cutting mine owners.

New Orleans still hasn’t received the levees promised by Congress and the Corp of Engineers.

And now, Gulf Coast residents are waiting to see if that pattern continues or breaks, and they’d probably like to know which, before the next big spill.

Hell, I would…because if there is one thing I’d…uh…oh damn…

From the Times Picayune:

“A year after the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Congress has done virtually nothing to address the issues raised by the oil spill — from industry liability limits, to regulatory reform, to coastal restoration, to broader issues of energy policy…”

Continue reading:

A year after Gulf oil spill, Congress is sitting on its hands

Have a nice day.

In other news…DHS comes to WalMart and Obama responds to the GOP: “Thank you sir, may I have another”

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On the heels of the TSA’s porn booths and sexual molestation of airplane passengers comes Janet Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security readying the rollout of their latest brainchild, the “If you see something, say something” campaign. Her video image will soon be coming to you in over 600 Walmart stores, Amtrak trains and hotels nationwide, urging the citizens of America to report any suspicious activity. The parallels to 1984 are so creepy it stands to reason that nobody in the DHS has ever read 1984 and frankly, it’s yet another reason for me to avoid going to Walmart.

Nonetheless, I intend to do my part by phoning in a call on every unattended backpack or any plastic bag I see drifting in the wind. After all, those bags should  be checked for bomb residue. They’re just as likely to contain chemical traces as my “junk.”

Read the article:

Homeland Security ‘messages’ coming to Walmart, hotels, malls

And Janet’s supervisor, Barack Obama made the news today by caving in to the GOP on tax cuts for the wealthy. The President said, “I have no doubt that everyone will find something in this compromise that they don’t like. In fact, there are things in here that I don’t like…for now, I believe this bipartisan plan is the right thing to do.”

Yeah, because bipartisan has worked out the last nine, seven, two, okay, it never worked but for some reason this guy believes it will. Maybe he just doesn’t know how to take a stand, but caving into pressure from the GOP and Fox news appears the only thing to count on with the current Pres. On the tax issue, he had strong poll support from the entire country, but it wasn’t enough and yes, I get it, he was able to extend unemployment benefits for this deal, but besides the tax breaks, he also agreed to revamp the estate tax and lower social security payroll taxes by 2 percent. Last I heard social security was in big trouble financially, so it would seem that by further reducing the amount of money being paid into social security will only further help the GOP’s ultimate desire to eventually kill the whole program altogether. Ahh Obama, the gift that keeps on giving. Like his cave on global warming, this current decision on social security will leave us not only struggling in the future due to increased temperature, but also potentially broke.

Jesus, maybe, he enjoys getting spanked on national television?

Read the article:

Obama extends tax breaks

Have a nice day.

The Head, It Spins…

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I know I'm not ants on a crucifix, but hey, give me some props, I screwed an entire ecosystem

In a quick perusal of the news this morning…and yesterday for that matter, I felt like a boxer taking punch after punch…and I gotta say it, I’m aggravated and disappointed, yet at the same time, more comfortable and secure in the correctness of my views that the government doesn’t care about anything but corporations and what they believe they can get away with, the problem with wilileaks isn’t what they reveal about our state department but instead that they have been revealed, the government’s importance of controlling information at every level, more government handouts to large business as the order of the day while cutting off unemployment benefits to people, and at the same time, the GOP demands to keep tax cuts for the wealthy…oh, and global warming? What do you mean global warming?

Walk with me:

From Peter S. Goodman at Huffingtonpost – “Republicans in Congress have held up the extension of unemployment benefits and are also demanding an extension of the tax cuts President George W. Bush handed out to the wealthiest Americans. They are selling this as a stand against fiscally reckless spending and oversized government — a form of pandering that poses dire consequences to the economy. Unlike wealthy people handed tax cuts, laid-off workers receiving unemployment checks tend to inject nearly all of that money directly into the economy, leaving their dollars at the local supermarket, the hardware store, and the auto repair shop, supporting jobs for people who work at those places. Cutting off those checks deprives the economy of cash just as the market is showing tentative signs of improvement.”

Yet, we are supposed to believe that extending tax cuts to those who don’t need them, who don’t create jobs, who don’t inject money into the economy, this is a good thing and fiscally responsible. Meanwhile, the banks have been given billions, trillions, to stay afloat, because they are more important then…um…you.

From Rawstory – Under pressure from Joe Lieberman, Amazon stopped hosting Wikileaks. In a statement from Joe – “I wish that Amazon had taken this action earlier based on Wikileaks’ previous publication of classified material. The company’s decision to cut off Wikileaks now is the right decision and should set the standard for other companies Wikileaks is using to distribute its illegally seized material. I call on any other company or organization that is hosting Wikileaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them. Wikileaks’ illegal, outrageous, and reckless acts have compromised our national security and put lives at risk around the world. No responsible company – whether American or foreign – should assist Wikileaks in its efforts to disseminate these stolen materials. I will be asking Amazon about the extent of its relationship with Wikileaks and what it and other web service providers will do in the future to ensure that their services are not used to distribute stolen, classified information.”

Hey Joe, first off, when we read stories such as this one about the Supreme Court, the very conservative supreme court questioning the broad government use of Freedom of Information Act exemptions to withhold documents and keep Americans in the dark about what the government we pay for is doing…well, you reap what you sow. Of course people are going to put this info out there when they get it and of course people are going to want to read it. From you, we get, “war on terror,” and “these are dangerous times,” and “national security”…ad nauseum, treating us like children who wouldn’t understand. Worse still, what the hell are you diplomats doing? Sounds to me like a lot of games, lying and bad behavior. Instead of treating us like children, perhaps it is time for us to be the parents because you jackasses have obviously been left to your own devices for too long.

Also from the Huffingtonpost – Incoming House Republicans plan to scrap “unnecessary” global warming committee. They claim they are doing this in a cost cutting move, designed to save waste. yeah, you guys are brilliant. In the spirit of cost-cutting I think if I’m ever diagnosed with cancer, I’ll tell my doctor I don’t want treatment because it will save me money in the short term.

Back to Rawstory and the FCC’s proposal for internet freedom: learning the rules of new politics, the FCC finally figured out how to get net neutrality for all, they simply have to create a piece of (shit) legislation that glad-hands corporations and internet service providers while screwing the general public, and then call it “net-neutrality” despite the fact it is anything but. It’s kind of like how the Patriot Act curtailed personal freedoms and invited the government to spy or how Bush’s Forest Preservation act actually allowed more clear-cutting of the nations forests. Same thing. The rules proposed by the FCC will allow for tiered systems and higher pay rates, essentially taking the free and open internet and turning it into cable television, pay for basic, extended, shell out some extra cash for HBO, Showtime, and for all you losers who still want things free, go watch the fucking networks. Oh, and on wireless technology, the future of the internet? No rules. It all adds up to restricted information, pay rates, less innovation and most importantly, a ton of money to AT+T, Google, Verizon, Comcast, Sprint, all paid for, by you, despite Obama’s pledge to do precisely the opposite.

And on a more amusing nature – it would appear that Congress is going to soon be back in the business of attacking art museums. Wonderful. Important stuff. An image of ants on a crucifix? That’s the crime? Are you fucking kidding me? So some dipshit congressman from Georgia wants an investigation…good for you, sir…good for you.

Ah yes, so here we are if you’re keeping score:

Telecom corporations, multinational banks, wealthy tax breaks, government transparency, foreclosures, saving money at the expense of science, global warming debate and attacking art…good.

Unemployment benefits, knowledge and the American people, you…bad.

Oh, and in case you’re new to this blog and believe all is well in the Gulf Coast, why not take a look at this and perchance, reconsider your views – In the Bayou, Husband and Wife Battle Oil Disaster and Fish for Survival.

Ain’t nothing over down there…nothing, much as BP and the NOAA are trying to convince you otherwise.

Okay, I think it might be time to go put an “X” in chalk on the farthest left, third pew to the back inside St. Louis Cathedral, or maybe I’ll just go get a drink. Yeah, after work tonight I think I’ll just go get a drink and then get to thinking about where this country is heading, have some conversation and try to figure out a way to get more people involved in their own future, cause it sure won’t happen watching reality television.

Okay.

Breathe…okay.

Hear that?

That was the sound of me getting off my soapbox, time to go to work.

Have a nice day.

Government Porn Booths and Molestation Makes Me Safe?

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Umm...nice gun?

Talking about the new porn booths she’s rolling into airports across the nation, Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Chief says “Each and every one of the security measures we implement serves an important goal.”

Okay, but what is the goal?

Violation of the fourth amendment? Invasion of privacy? Profits for a company, Rapsican who makes the scanners and wouldn’t ya know, is a client of Michael Cherthoff’s lobbying group, the same Michael Cherthoff who introduced the idea of using the scanners when he was Department of Homeland Security Chief?

In case you’ve been living in a bubble, people are getting angry about the TSA’s new tool to fight crime, full body scanners. They take a full body image that is sharp enough to show non-metallic weapons and body genitalia through x-ray technology. The TSA maintains these x-rays are safe, but par usual whenever a government agency maintains the safety of (gulf seafood, genetically modified crops and salmon) something they mandate by law, scientists without agenda hold a differing view: “They say the risk is minimal, but statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these X-rays,” says Dr Michael Love, who runs an X-ray lab at the department of biophysics and biophysical chemistry at Johns Hopkins University school of medicine. Should one opt out of the scanners they are then forced, in lieu of a $10,000 fine should they try to leave the screening process, into an intrusive body pat down, one that has been an equated with sexual assault. In response to such comparisons, Ron Paul, introduced a bill which would waive immunity for TSA airport screeners, opening them up to charges of assault by travelers, feeling they should beheld to the same laws as the rest of us.

Some have suggested that the more intrusive pat downs, rolled out this past October are meant as a deterrent to get people into the machines and some people, rightfully so, question what happens to these naked computer images? In an earlier post from August, I explored this issue. The TSA first maintained that the computers were not capable of saving or transmitting images. Then a courthouse in Florida demonstrated that not only are they capable, but the sheriff’s department at one court house had saved over 35,000 of them. Then the TSA said, okay, but they are deleted right away, but then those images started to make their way to the internet. Then they said well, okay, but we would never use machines with those capabilities at airports.

Right.

And since those capabilities are a matter of software inside the machines, we’ll never know, and even if those machines are truly disabled what would prevent a TSA screener from taking a picture of the image with his cellphone. Oh, right, the TSA doesn’t permit its employees to carry cellphones. How many of you work in jobs where cellphones aren’t permitted, but have brought them with you anyway?

Yep, me too.

So now the horror stories begin:

An airline pilot brings his 18 year old daughter to the airport and overhears one TSA agent say to another, “Heads up! I’ve got a cutie for you,” as she was headed for the scanner. When the pilot confronted the TSA clerk, he was told there must be a misunderstanding.

A breast cancer survivor is forced to remove her breast prosthesis in Charlotte. Cathy Bossi, a flight attendant relates the story: “She put her full hand on my breast and said, ‘What is this?’ Bossi recalled. “And I said, ‘It’s my prosthesis because I’ve had breast cancer.’ And she said, ‘Well, you’ll need to show me that.'”

Thomas Sawyer tried to warn the TSA agents that he had a urostomy bag and they might break the seal if they weren’t careful during the invasive pat downs. The TSA agents ignored this and then, of course, broke the seal, resulting in the man walking through the airport and onto his plane covered in urine.

And what do TSA agents think about this, well those without morale compass certainly wouldn’t be bothered, but lest we forget, TSA agents are people too and one particular agent who remembers this, describes his feelings this way:

“It is not comfortable to come to work knowing full well that my hands will be feeling another man’s private parts, their butt, their inner thigh. Even worse is having to try and feel inside the flab rolls of obese passengers and we seem to get a lot of obese passengers!”

“Molester, pervert, disgusting, an embarrassment, creep. These are all words I have heard today at work describing me, said in my presence as I patted passengers down. These comments are painful and demoralizing, one day is bad enough, but I have to come back tomorrow, the next day and the day after that to keep hearing these comments. If something doesn’t change in the next two weeks I don’t know how much longer I can withstand this taunting. I go home and I cry. I am serving my country, I should not have to go home and cry after a day of honorably serving my country.”

Initially, airline pilots were forced to undergo the screenings, but now will be allowed to bypass as the TSA apparently realized how ridiculous it was to check the individual flying the plane for bombs.

Several lawmakers are getting into the act, including President Obama, who despite never having gone through the scanners or suffered the indignity of the pat downs, said he “understands peoples frustrations.” He states he asks, constantly, if there isn’t a better way to do this, but TSA officials have told him there isn’t, not yet. Congressional members, who have been sounding off about this, both pro and con, you know, our elected representatives, they of course are exempt from these screenings.

This is not your Congressman

Oh, and the most amusing fact about these new procedures?

They all come as a result of last years attempted Christmas bombing when a man snuck explosive chemicals onto a plane in his underwear. Well, the GAO reports: “it remains unclear whether the AIT (Scanners) would have detected the weapon used in the December 2009 incident based on the preliminary information GAO has received.”

Passengers, pilots, flight attendants, members of congress, front line employees of the TSA, the media…everyone up in arms about these new procedures, the invasive pat downs, the radiation from the machines. Republican congressman are calling for airports to ditch the TSA and hire private security (an empty gesture as the airports would still be mandated to follow TSA guidelines), passengers are talking on public forums about the best way to humiliate TSA agents, four lawyers in New York City have proposed legislation to ban the machines in New York City’s airports, the morale of TSA agents are flagging, people are opting out of flying. With all the uproar, what is the response from the TSA?

TSA Chief John Pistole told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs that his inspectors at 453 of the nation’s airports are not going to back down in the face of complaints that techniques are invasive. Pistole acknowledged the outcry, but he argued that passengers need to be educated, rather than change the procedures.

“Am I going to change the policies?” he said. “No.”

So here we are:

I fly mainly into two airports: Louis Armstrong International and San Francisco International and both have the scanners. I can choose to be radiated and allow the TSA to take a nude image or I can subject myself to an invasive pat down where a TSA agent runs his hands over every inch of my body…well, either that or I don’t fly. The president, congress, people, the TSA’s own employees, everyone but Joe Lieberman and Michael Cherthoff are less than thrilled by any and all of this, yet my three choices remain. I didn’t vote for the TSA. I have a big problem with what it is they are doing. They are a government entity doing something that would get everyone but them arrested for sexual assault, yet I have no choice but to submit. I have no recourse to being wronged.

Yeah, this is why I feel disenfranchised.

So look for me at the airport, I’ll be the one feeling much, much safer and making things very awkward for the TSA agent who’s touching my balls. I’ll also be the one contacting members of congress and demanding they stop this bullshit money grab for yet another company in the name of (fear) safety.

Check out National Opt-Out Day, November 24th where a large number of people plan to skip the scanners and demand pat-downs, keeping the pressure where it should be, on the TSA.

Have a nice day.

Hey TSA…Can You Record Obscene Finger Gestures On Your Body Scanners Too?

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Coming soon to the internet...Airport Porn

The new airport body scanners the Transportation Security Administration have been unrolling into airports across the country penetrate clothing to provide highly detailed images so accurate that critics have likened it to a virtual strip search. How accurate might you ask? Due to child pornography laws, children are not permitted to be scanned by the machines. As soon as they were announced a couple of years back, the TSA moved quickly to quiet any criticisms by explaining at length, for anyone who could hear how the images would not be saved, in fact, could not be saved on the machines.

Yeah, they lied.

So then they admitted okay, yes, these scanners do have the capability to store and transmit images, however they would never do such a thing, it would be a violation of privacy.

Yeah, they lied again.

The machines can store up to 40,000 images and wouldn’t you know, the U.S. Marshals Service in Florida admitted this week that it had surreptitiously saved 35, 134 images with a millimeter wave system at the security checkpoint of a single Florida courthouse. Obviously, they were being respectful as if they really wanted to push the envelope they could have saved an additional 4,866 more.

“TSA is not being straightforward with the public about the capabilities of these devices,” said Marc Rotenberg, the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s Exec Director, “This is the Department of Homeland Security subjecting every U.S. traveler to an intrusive search that can be recorded without any suspicion–I think it’s outrageous.”

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano recently stated the scanners would soon be at almost every major airport, including New York City, Dallas, Washington, Miami, San Francisco, Seattle and Philadelphia.

Seriously though people…relax.

All that image storing stuff happened at a courthouse with criminals and people who know criminals…you know, bad people. Airports are a different story altogether – on Wednesday, TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz said that the agency’s scanners are delivered to airports with the image recording functions turned off. “We’re not recording them,” she said. “I’m reiterating that to the public. We are not ever activating those capabilities at the airport.”

Umm…you lie.

Read the article,

Feds admit storing checkpoint body scan images

Have a nice flight.

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