Mostly Monday Reads: Come Hell and High Water

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I think I might see a bit of sunlight today after days of drizzle from what’s left of Hurricane Barry which is basically a low moving through the middle of the country. Fortunately, the storm hit a big patch of dry air and didn’t fire up as much as possible.  It also was slow moving so surge and the river cresting wasn’t quite as widespread as was feared.  Climate change is a huge problem down here around the Gulf.

Fox News reported the rescue of 12 folks by the US Coast Guard on a small barrier island that is mostly underwater now days.

A dozen people stranded on a remote Louisiana island by Tropical Storm Barry are being rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The rescue was carried out on Isle de Jean Charles, a Terrebonne Parish community that was cut off by rising water from the storm. Isle de Jean Charles is about two hours south of New Orleans.

Petty Officer Lexie Preston told the Associated Press that some people were on rooftops and that four people and a cat had already been taken from the island on a helicopter. She said a boat is also heading to the area to help get the rest of the people off the island.

The Coast Guard reported that none of the rescued strandees, including four who were elderly, were injured, WWL-TV reported.

Isle de Jean Charles is a sacred indigenous place and nearly all of its residents have become part of the Climate Change Diaspora.

Isle de Jean Charles is a narrow island in the bayous of South Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. A place of immense physical beauty and great biodiversity, it is most importantly home to the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe.

For our Island people, it is more than simply a place to live. It is the epicenter of our Tribe and traditions. It is where our ancestors survived after being displaced by Indian Removal Act-era policies and where we cultivated what has become a unique part of Louisiana culture. Today, the land that has sustained us for generations is vanishing before our eyes.  Our tribal lands are plagued by a host of environmental problems — coastal erosion and salt-water intrusion, caused by canals dredged through our surrounding marshland by oil and gas companies, land sinking due to a lack of soil renewal or “crevasse,” because of the construction of levees that separated us from the river, and rising seas. These environmental changes have led to increasing flood risk and changes in our life ways. For example, our Island needed a levee, but the small levee that protects our Island during high tide has also led our bayou to become stagnant, killing the ecosystem we once had. The need for reliable access to jobs and services up the bayou have forced many of our people to nearby areas, including Pointe-aux-Chenes, Bourg, Montegut, Chauvin, along Bayou Grand Caillou, and Houma. For over fifteen years we have been planning a Tribal Resettlement in order to bring our people back together, rejuvenate our ways of life, and secure a future for our Tribe.

You can read more about their plight here: “On the Louisiana Coast, A Native Community Sinks Slowly into the Sea” from Yale Environment 360.

The Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians of southern Louisiana have been called America’s first climate refugees. But two years after receiving federal funding to move to higher ground, the tribe is stuck in limbo, waiting for new homes as the water inches closer to their doors.

Of the 35 residential structures left on the island, many stand empty, slowly rotting back into the landscape. Due to unprecedented soil subsidence, sea level rise, and the thousands of oil and gas canals that have allowed saltwater intrusion and erosion, the once-wooded landscape is slowly disappearing beneath the sea.

Since 1930, Louisiana’s coastal plain has lost more than 2,000 square miles of land – about the size of Delaware, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Isle de Jean Charles, the historical homeland of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians, is the most desperate example of the state’s vanishing coast.

Climate Change also is playing a role in the migration north from South America. Food Shortages–simultaneously due to lack of normal rain along with incredible record breaking heat and storms–will cause an environmental diaspora to grow.  We have started seen the farmers of Honduras come to our borders.

Some people here know about climate change, about the vast, complex forces of cambio climatico roiling the weather. Global warming has heated the air and driven away seasonal rains. It may have boosted the spread of bark-munching beetles, which ravaged pine forests surrounding El Rosario that had already been depleted by logging. The loss of the forests, in turn, diminished freshwater streams and sent temperatures in the village soaring still higher, residents say.

Migration to the United States from Honduras and its neighboring “northern triangle” countries — El Salvador and Guatemala — has climbed in recent years. The reasons are complex, including poverty, unemployment and violence. But the increase in migration also coincides with the drought, which began in 2014, and those living in Central America’s so-called dry corridor, which is adjacent to El Rosario, say lack of food is the primary reason people leave, according to a United Nations report.

Last summer, the Honduran government declared an emergency because of food shortages, joining governments in El Salvador and Guatemala, which issued similar alerts. Almost 100,000 families in Honduras and 2 million people across the region lacked adequate food. Making matters worse, a pathogen that scientists believe is worsened by climate change has ravaged the country’s coffee plantations, which means that migrant farm laborers who count on the coffee harvest for income can’t find work.

Researchers and international aid workers say that for Honduran family farmers, like those in El Rosario, to survive, they need support to adjust to the climate’s rapid changes, including instruction in planting drought-resistant crops and help conserving water.

What is our Racist in Chief doing to address this issue?

The U.S. sends hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Central America every year, but most of it gets directed to security, drug control or violence prevention programs, rather than agricultural or environmental support. Under the Obama administration, Congress doubled the fundingto the region from $338 million in 2014 to $754 million in 2016 and began directing more funding to climate and agriculture programs. The Trump administration has tried to cut funding dramatically  — proposals Congress has rejected. Under the current budget, almost $530 million is directed toward Central America.

In March, President Donald Trump said his administration would cut aid to Central American countries to punish them for failing to stop migration flows. The administration made the cuts official in June, saying it would withhold some of the funds allocated by Congress for 2017 and would suspend all funds Congress approved for 2018. Critics have said this will only stoke more migration.

Well, today he upped the death and destruction that finds root in his racist, white nationalist demons. This is via the A/P and is breaking news: “Trump moves to end asylum protections for Central Americans”.  This move comes after a weekend of some of the most vitriolic racist tweets this evil, evil man has ever tweeted. Yet the Republicans stand for this and with this.

The Trump administration on Monday moved to end asylum protections for most Central American migrants in a major escalation of the president’s battle to tamp down the number of people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

According to a new rule published in the Federal Register , asylum seekers who pass through another country first will be ineligible for asylum at the U.S. southern border. The rule, expected to go into effect Tuesday, also applies to children who have crossed the border alone.

The rule applies to anyone arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. Sometimes asylum seekers from Africa and other continents arrive there, but most migrants arriving there are Central Americans.

There are some exceptions: If someone has been trafficked, if the country the migrant passed through did not sign one of the major international treaties that govern how refugees are managed (though most Western countries have signed them) or if an asylum-seeker sought protection in a country but was denied, then a migrant could still apply for U.S. asylum.

But the move by President Donald Trump’s administration was meant to essentially end asylum protections as they now are on the southern border, reversing decades of U.S. policy on how refugees are treated and coming as the government continues to clamp down on migrants and as the treatment of those who made it to the country is heavily criticized as inhumane.

Attorney General William Barr said that the United States is “a generous country but is being completely overwhelmed” by the burdens associated with apprehending and processing hundreds of thousands of migrants at the southern border.

“This rule will decrease forum shopping by economic migrants and those who seek to exploit our asylum system to obtain entry to the United States,” Barr said in a statement.

The policy is almost certain to face a legal challenge. U.S. law allows refugees to request asylum when they arrive at the U.S. regardless of how they did so, but there is an exception for those who have come through a country considered to be “safe.” But the Immigration and Nationality Act, which governs asylum law, is vague on how a country is determined “safe”; it says “pursuant to a bilateral or multilateral agreement.”

Right now, the U.S. has such an agreement, known as a “safe third country,” only with Canada. Under a recent agreement with Mexico, Central American countries were considering a regional compact on the issue, but nothing has been decided. Guatemalan officials were expected in Washington on Monday, but apparently a meeting between Trump and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales was canceled amid a court challenge in Guatemala over whether the country could agree to a safe third with the U.S.

American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Gelernt, who has litigated some of the major challenges to the Trump administration’s immigration policies, said the rule was unlawful.

This rule basically says if any one passed through another country on the way to the US and didn’t ask for asylum there cannot ask for asylum in the US. This man has two immigrant wives. His mother was an immigrant.  All but one of his children could actually be categorized as anchor babies via his rhetoric that’s applied to brown and black people in his demented mind.  Melania Trump got documented on false pretenses.  There is no explanation for what he does other than racism.

His tweet uproar started with attack on American Women serving in Congress this weekend.  It was beyond appalling.  Republicans are off somewhere in their cones of silence.

“Republicans Silent On Trump’s Racist Remarks To Congresswomen”,  The president had urged the Democratic congresswomen to “go back” to the countries they came from

Presidents Donald Trump’s urging of Democratic congresswomen to “go back” to the countries they came from on Sunday has drawn widespread condemnation, with congressional Democrats declaring his rhetoric racist, xenophobic and bigoted.

There was just one thing immediately missing (beyond an apology): a rebuke from their Republican counterparts.

The deafening silence came after Trump went on a Twitter rant against “‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen” who, in his words, came from “countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world.”

Though he didn’t identify his targets by name, they appeared to be Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. The four have been in the news lately amid increased tension between them and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

All four women of color have been outspoken critics of Trump’s handling of the immigration crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border. However, only Omar was born outside of the U.S., having immigrated as a child from Africa.

“When @realDonaldTrump tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to ‘Make America Great Again’ has always been about making America white again,” Pelosi responded to Trump on Twitter shortly after. “Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power.”

Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, who recently left the Republican Party to be an independent, also called Trump’s comments “racist and disgusting.”

Image result for powerful civil rights imagesHere are some other reactions:

Los Angeles Times:  Trump is truly America’s Bigot-in-Chief

Goldie Taylor / The Daily Beast:  Trump Is a Racist.  If You Still Support Him, So Are You.

Charles M. Blow / New York Times: Trump’s Tweets Prove That He Is a Raging Racist

Peter Baker / New York Times: Trump Fans the Flames of a Racial Fire

Greg Sargent / Washington Post: Trump just denied his attacks are racist. He only confirmed the worst.

Ever since President Trump launched his candidacy by declaring Mexicans to be “rapists,” Trump’s public racism has often included two additional important elements: an adamant refusal to apologize for it in the face of outrage, and an equally adamant denial that the offending language was racist in any way.

Central to Trump’s racism — and more broadly to Trumpism writ large — is not just the content of the racism itself. It’s also that he’s asserting the right to engage in public displays of racism without it being called out for what it is. A crucial ingredient here is Trump’s declaration of the ability to flaunt his racism with impunity.

Trump’s racist attack on nonwhite progressive lawmakers is following this pattern, and indeed, it’s worth looking at what has come next, which is also revealing and important.

As you’ve heard, Trump tweeted on Sunday that four outspoken Democratic congresswomen “originally came from countries” that are “corrupt” and a “catastrophe,” and that they should “go back” to them. Three of his targets (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley) were born in the United States, and the fourth (Ilhan Omar) is a Somali refugee.

The remarks drew widespread condemnation, largely with the exception of Republicans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced Trump for wanting to make “America white again,” and, while some news organizations danced around what Trump had done, others explicitly labeled the comments “racist.”

Frankly, any one who is silent or supports Trump has no excuse to claim they’re not a racist.

Image result for powerful civil rights imagesThe criticism is even coming from our allies abroad. Bloomberg reports that: U.K. Leader Says Trump’s Tweets on Democrats Are ‘Completely Unacceptable’

U.S. President Donald Trump used “completely unacceptable” language to describe four female Democratic lawmakers, Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman told reporters on London in Monday, potentially exacerbating the recent tensions with Washington.

Trump posted a series of tweets on Sunday suggesting that four U.S. lawmakers, led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, should return to the “broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

May thinks “the language used to refer to these women was completely unacceptable,” her spokesman, James Slack, told reporters on Monday.

Related imageResponses are coming from other members of Congress as well as the four women.

From Adrian Walker writing for the Boston Globe :  “Ayanna Pressley brushes off Trump’s tweets — but not his treatment of refugees”.

Donald J. Trump — a man who clearly has too much time on his hands in the morning — began Sunday with a characteristically xenophobic Twitter rant against a group of progressive female members of Congress.

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly . . . and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” he wrote. “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how . . . it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough.”

Which is how I came to ask congresswoman Ayanna Pressley what she thought of being a target of the president of the United States.

“I never use the word you used — president — to describe him,” she said. “I refer to him as ‘the occupant.’ He simply occupies the space. He embodies zero of the qualities and the principles, the responsibility, the grace, the integrity, the compassion, of someone who would truly embody that office. It’s just another day in the world under this administration.”

Earlier, Pressley had tweeted a screenshot of Trump’s comments, along with her response: “THIS is what racism looks like. WE are what democracy looks like. And we’re not going anywhere. Except back to DC to fight for the families you marginalize and vilify everyday.”

Related imageMaybe he’s in a grumpy mood because he didn’t get a bloodbath during his ICE raids?  Who knows?  From Bobby Allyn and NPR: ” Trump’s Nationwide Immigration Raids Fail To Materialize”.

President Trump’s threatened roundup of undocumented immigrant families this weekend that set migrants in many communities on edge showed few signs of materializing on Sunday, the second time rumors of a large-scale immigration enforcement operation failed to come to fruition.

Instead, in the cities where rumors of mass raids swirled, many immigrants stayed inside their homes, as jitters turned typically vibrant migrant markets and commercial corridors eerily quiet.

Immigrant advocates across the country, meanwhile, took to the streets to protest the promised roundup.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement would not confirm any arrests, nor would immigrant rights activists.

“The ACLU has not heard reports of any raids today,” Ruthie Epstein, the American Civil Liberties Union’s deputy director for immigration policy, told NPR.

Before Sunday, there were weekend reports of attempted arrests by ICE in New YorkNew Jersey and Chicago, where The New York Times reportedthat a mother and her daughters were apprehended, though the family was immediately released. But those actions appeared to be part of routine enforcement, not connected to a massive raid.

Still, fears of ICE catching migrants by surprise sent many into hiding on Sunday.

It’s time for all people that come from basic goodness, compassion, and desire for justice to speak out on all of this.  It is time to deal with the pernicious institutional racism in this country and the blatant hateful racism promoted by the would be dickator of Trumpfuckistan, the elected Republicans that either fully support or enable it, and the icky deplorables that include those overly self-righteous but not righteous at all evangelicals.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today? 


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

There’s another Republican Debate in South Carolina tonight. Can you believe it? This one is hosted by CNN. How much more of this torture can American stand? These debates just keep on coming! We’ll live blog this one later on, perhaps with some interesting variations on the theme.

Speaking of horrible things that never end, can you believe Obama is considering appointing Larry Summers to head the World Bank? Here I thought we were finally free of Summers, but the guy just won’t go away. He keeps coming back, no matter how ghastly of job he does. From Bloomberg:

President Barack Obama is considering nominating Lawrence Summers, his former National Economic Council director, to lead the World Bank when Robert Zoellick’s term expires later this year, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Summers has expressed interest in the job to White House officials and has backers inside the administration, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and current NEC Director Gene Sperling, said one of the people. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also being considered, along with other candidates, said the other person. Both spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations….

A nomination of Summers would bring scrutiny of his previous stints in government, both as former President Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary and Obama’s NEC director, as well as his tenure as president of Harvard University.

“Larry is controversial,” said Erskine Bowles, who served as Clinton’s chief of staff. “Anything you appoint Larry to, you know there are going to be some people who are going to take shots at him. But you know he’s a brilliant economist, which I think everybody recognizes.”

Oh really? If he’s so brilliant, then why is teaching college freshman? Why doesn’t he publish in academic journals? Why did he get fired by Harvard and the Obama administration? Enough with the retreads, Mr. President.

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Mitt Romney has admitted he pays somewhere close to 15% of his income in Federal taxes. NPR’s Here and Now had an interesting discussion yesterday about how he and other richie-rich folks get away with this. I recommend listening to the show if you have time. Here’s a bit from the write-up:

“Carried interest is the way that hedge fund managers and private equity firm managers get paid when they do a deal,” Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Institute told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

Gleckman says private equity firms bring in outside investors. To get in on the deals, investors pay the firms in two ways– an initial fee, and a 20 percent cut of future profits.

When the owners of private equity firms pay taxes on that compensation from the investors, they pay as if it were capital gains– so that means they are paying a top rate of no more than 15 percent.

“Ordinarily if they were paid like the rest of us in wages and salaries, they’d be paying a top rate of up to 35 percent,” he said.

Gleckman said the carried interest tax arrangement is completely legal and not uncommon.

Bob McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice said that this kind of income comes from work and should be taxed as such. And Gleckman agreed, saying that capital gains taxes are lower because the goal is to encourage people to risk their own money. Romney isn’t doing that.

Here’s another explanation at Bloomberg:

Romney, one of the richest men to seek the presidency, probably benefits from a controversial tax break that allows him to pay a lower overall rate than do millions of American wage-earners whose votes he’ll need to capture the White House.

That’s because private equity executives, as Romney was for 15 years when he ran Boston-based Bain Capital LLC, receive much of their compensation as “carried interest.” That enables them to treat what would be ordinary income for other service providers, taxed at rates as high as 35 percent, as capital gains taxed at 15 percent….

Yet those investments were largely made by Romney’s former partners with other investors’ money, not his personal funds. The vast majority of the resulting gains represent compensation for Bain’s work acquiring, sprucing up and selling individual companies, critics say.

“This is labor income for them, not a return on capital invested,” said Victor Fleischer, an associate law professor at the University of Colorado whose 2007 paper on the topic helped spark a move in Congress to try to change the law. “It’s a method of converting one’s labor into capital gains in a way that’s unusual outside the investment management industry. Ordinary people wouldn’t be able to do this.”

If Romney just paid his taxes like the rest of us, he’d probably be doing a much greater service to the country than if he becomes president. BTW, the articles says that Obama has paid 31% of his income in taxes for the last three years.

But that’s not all. Romney keeps millions of dollars of his vast wealth in the Cayman Islands, a well-know tax shelter.

Official documents reviewed by ABC News show that Bain Capital, the private equity partnership Romney once ran, has set up some 138 secretive offshore funds in the Caymans.

Romney campaign officials and those at Bain Capital tell ABC News that the purpose of setting up those accounts in the Cayman Islands is to help attract money from foreign investors, and that the accounts provide no tax advantage to American investors like Romney. Romney, the campaign said, has paid all U.S. taxes on income derived from those investments.

“The tax consequences to the Romneys are the very same whether the fund is domiciled here or another country,” a campaign official said in response to questions. “Gov. and Mrs. Romney have money invested in funds that the trustee has determined to be attractive investment opportunities, and those funds are domiciled wherever the fund sponsors happen to organize the funds.”

Bain officials called the decision to locate some funds offshore routine, and a benefit only to foreign investors who do not want to be subjected to U.S. taxes.

Whatever. The guy is filthy rich, pays very little of his income in taxes, and has no clue how most Americans live. His attitude is that capitalism is sacred and if millions of “little people” are hurt by the machinations of people like him, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. And we shouldn’t have any safety nets for when things go wrong either. This man should never be POTUS.

A few more Romney items …

While he was at Bain Mitt used large donations of stock to the Mormon church to avoid paying taxes.

The New York Daily News got ahold of John McCain’s oppo research on Romney from 2008. “Talk about awkward,” the first line reads.

And here’s another awkward moment for the Mittster: Mitt Romney Allegedly Pulls Back Handshake Upon Learning That DREAM Act Advocate Is Undocumented.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney suddenly pulled back his hand after hearing that a young college student who greeted him at a New York fundraiser Tuesday night was undocumented, according to DREAM Act activists.

“He extended his hand to shake mine,” the young woman told The Huffington Post. “But once I said I was undocumented, he pulled his hand away from me.”

The 19-year-old college student, who asked to be identified only as Lucy because of her undocumented status, said she was also booed by Romney supporters as she was escorted out of a New York City fundraiser. One of the supporters told her to “go back to Mexico,” and she responded that she was “actually from Peru,” according to her account of the event.

Oops! There goes the Latino vote….

But we can’t forget that Romney still has at least one viable competitor for South Carolina’s delegates–food stamp obsessive and child labor advocate Newt Gingrich. Guess what Newt’s been up to? He’s using a fund-raising letter to threaten to punch out Barack Obama

Newt Gingrich’s campaign sent out a fundraising request to supporters this afternoon touting that the former speaker said he wants to knock Obama out, because, as the subject line of the email suggests, “A Bloody Nose Just Won’t Cut It.” The comment comes from a recent town hall where a questioner asked Gingrich how he would “bloody Obama’s nose.” “I don’t want to bloody his nose, I want to knock him out!” Gingrich responded. “This is exactly why Newt Gingrich is the candidate who must face Obama,” campaign spokesman RC Hammond says in the email, above a bright red “Donate” button.

You just can’t make this stuff up!

Conor Friedersdorf has an excellent response to Andrew Sullivan’s silly Newsweek article defending Obama’s accomplishments as President. I think Friedersdorf is a liberatarian, but his assessment on Obama is still on point. Check it out. I’ll just reproduce his list of Obama’s “accomplishments” here:

(1) Codify indefinite detention into law; (2) draw up a secret kill list of people, including American citizens, to assassinate without due process; (3) proceed with warrantless spying on American citizens; (4) prosecute Bush-era whistleblowers for violating state secrets; (5) reinterpret the War Powers Resolution such that entering a war of choice without a Congressional declaration is permissible; (6) enter and prosecute such a war; (7) institutionalize naked scanners and intrusive full body pat-downs in major American airports; (8) oversee a planned expansion of TSA so that its agents are already beginning to patrol American highways, train stations, and bus depots; (9) wage an undeclared drone war on numerous Muslim countries that delegates to the CIA the final call about some strikes that put civilians in jeopardy; (10) invoke the state-secrets privilege to dismiss lawsuits brought by civil-liberties organizations on dubious technicalities rather than litigating them on the merits; (11) preside over federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries; (12) attempt to negotiate an extension of American troops in Iraq beyond 2011 (an effort that thankfully failed); (14) reauthorize the Patriot Act; (13) and select an economic team mostly made up of former and future financial executives from Wall Street firms that played major roles in the financial crisis.

Unfortunately, he didn’t include Obama’s many contributions to the war on women.

Speaking of Obama’s war on the Constitution, Chris Hedges is going to court to sue Obama over the indefinite detention portion of the NDAA.

Attorneys Carl J. Mayer and Bruce I. Afran filed a complaint Friday in the Southern U.S. District Court in New York City on my behalf as a plaintiff against Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to challenge the legality of the Authorization for Use of Military Force as embedded in the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by the president Dec. 31.

The act authorizes the military in Title X, Subtitle D, entitled “Counter-Terrorism,” for the first time in more than 200 years, to carry out domestic policing. With this bill, which will take effect March 3, the military can indefinitely detain without trial any U.S. citizen deemed to be a terrorist or an accessory to terrorism. And suspects can be shipped by the military to our offshore penal colony in Guantanamo Bay and kept there until “the end of hostilities.” It is a catastrophic blow to civil liberties.

I spent many years in countries where the military had the power to arrest and detain citizens without charge. I have been in some of these jails. I have friends and colleagues who have “disappeared” into military gulags. I know the consequences of granting sweeping and unrestricted policing power to the armed forces of any nation. And while my battle may be quixotic, it is one that has to be fought if we are to have any hope of pulling this country back from corporate fascism.

Thanks to Hedges for putting his money where his mouth is.

I’ll end with this piece from Reuters: Sunk! How Hollywood Lost the PR Battle Over SOPA.

In the space of a couple of days, Hollywood and its content creators lost the public relations war over Internet piracy SOPA legislation — which now appears poised to crumble into a million bits of dust.

Wow.

The messaging industry never had control of the message.

The tech guys found a simple, shareable idea — the Stop Online Piracy Act is Censorship — made it viral, and made it stick.

Hollywood had Chris Dodd and a press release. Silicon Valley had Facebook.

It shouldacoulda been a fair fight. But it wasn’t.

It seems that Hollywood still does not realize that it is in the information age. Knowledge moves in real time, and events move accordingly. The medium is the message in a fight like this.

I disagree that the fight is over, but it’s nice to see the battle for free speech and privacy getting some corporate media ink.

So … what are you reading and blogging about today?


Tuesday Reads: Occupy Boston, Occupy Wall Street, and a Modern Day Whisky Rebellion

Good Morning!! Today I want to focus on articles about Occupy Wall Street protests, which despite the critiques of those on both the right and left, are still going on in NYC and many other U.S. cities, including Boston, I’m happy to say. The Boston Phoenix has a blog to document the protests. On September 28, Chris Faraone wrote:

At this early juncture it’s already safe to say that Occupy Wall Street has succeeded. I’m not being sarcastic. Yesterday I wrote about the media storm that’s showered their protests from early on, and that’s rained down even harder since the New York Police Department began brutalizing demonstrators. And after last night’s Occupy Boston meeting on the Common, I’m convinced that the hordes have achieved something even greater than attracting press: regardless of what they actually accomplish in the end, Occupy has already become the hottest protest franchise since the Tea Party. Which is why it makes sense that contrarian Boston is emerging as the first city to strike while the brand is hot.

Last night’s kickoff meeting was at least a testament to the popularity of this movement. People have been angry for some time, but for many it was Occupy that motivated them – not the countless other protests that take place every week around here. Roughly 300 showed –with a significant number of reporters on the scene documenting –despite the event having been announced less than a day ahead of time, and almost exclusively through social media (Steve Annear, who you should follow on Twitter if you’re keeping tabs on the actions, also broke the story in the Metro). By a show of hands, a few dozen folks on the Common got their feet wet in Liberty Square during the first stretch of Occupy Wall Street. But for the most part, these were people – mostly young, but overall from a mix of backgrounds, ages, and ethnicities – who’d become interested by what they’d seen online and in the news.

Occupy Boston meeting on Boston Common

The Guardian even published an article about the Boston organization:

There were socialists, anti-poverty campaigners, students, anarchists, computer hackers, the unemployed, and workers ranging from a vet to an accountant.

And, numbering around 200 and meeting to plot until late in the night, a group of Bostonians have decided to recreate the anti-Wall Street protests that are gripping New York.

Unlike previous attempts, such as a march that fizzled out in Chicago with just 20 people, the people behind Occupy Boston showed a strong dose of media savvy and organisational skill on Monday night, as they drew a committed crowd of volunteers to their cause: to occupy a slice of the city. Local TV crews were in attendance at the evening mass planning meeting, and it had been flagged on the front pages of Boston’s newspapers.

The move raises the first serious prospect of the Wall Street protests spreading beyond New York and comes as other events are also being planned in Los Angeles and Washington.

Noam Chomsky even made a youtube video of support.

This thing is really growing. Could it be that the young people of this country are really going to stand up and fight? I sure hope so. Is this happening where you live? If so, please share what you know. I’m starting to get excited about this!

Getting back to the New York protests, Emptywheel had a post today on the NYPD and their history of violations of civil liberties. I’m not going to excerpt from it, because you really need to read the whole thing–it’s not very long.

At FDL, David Dayen has a post about Van Jones’s Take Back the American Dream organization and how it is “building off #Occupy Wall Street.”

The Campaign for America’s Future expected their conference to be a launching pad for an American Dream Movement that would be a counterpart to the Tea Party, a left populist movement that would branch out across the country. And that movement has built itself up over the past couple months, and was in part responsible for the invisible town hall revolution over August.

But CAF found itself caught by an organic protest movement, a disparate movement organized by a simple theme, an expression of the feeling of mass injustice. Nobody on the left was totally prepared for #OccupyWallStreet, which sprung up on its own. But the groups that have been organizing in similar ways and with a similar theme were more than prepared to support it.

The spirit of #OccupyWallStreet has given a booster shot to this Take Back the American Dream Conference, which last year was completely moribund. The first session at the conference was a paean to #OccupyWallStreet, with video from New York City (the live feed crashed, unfortunately) and even one organizer who camped out in Zuccotti Park speaking. “If we demand something from Wall Street, we’re telling them that they have the power, but we do,” said the organizer from the Working Families Party in New York.

“They went down there to the scene of the crime against our future,” said Van Jones at his keynote address, in admiration of the #OccupyWallStreet protesters. “They’ve been beaten, they’ve been pepper sprayed, they’ve been falsely arrested, but they never broke their discipline. They told the police officers who were arresting them, we are the 99%, we’re fighting for you, we’re fighting for your pensions too.”

“Something’s happening in America. Don’t you give up on this movement!” Jones concluded.

Yes, something is finally happening. Will it continue to grow? I sure hope so!

I also want to call your attention to an interesting piece at Salon by William Hogeland, author of three books on the revolutionary period in American history. Hogeland compares the Occupy Wall Street movement to the so-called Whisky Rebellion. Hogeland writes about radical protests movements against our founding fathers, who were, after all, the elites of their day. Here’s just a sample:

The difficulty in dealing with our founding battle for democratic economics arises in part because the movement was not against England but against the very American banking and trading elites who dominated the resistance to England. That complicates our founding myth, possibly unpleasantly. Also, it was a generally losing battle. With ratification of the Constitution, Hamiltonian finance triumphed, and people looking to Jefferson and Madison for finance and economic alternatives to Hamilton are barking up the wrong tree, since what those men knew, or even really cared, about finance could be written on a dime. (Anyway, in pushing for creating a nation, Madison supported Hamiltonian finance down the line. Their differences came later.) When Occupy Wall Street protesters say “It’s We the People!” they’re actually referring to a preamble, intending no hint of economic democracy, to a document that was framed specifically to push down democratic finance and concentrate American wealth for national purposes. Not very edifying, but there it is.

The Tea Party, meanwhile, has taken up founding economic issues from a right-wing point of view, associating itself with the upper-middle-class Boston patriots (often mistaken for populist democrats) who led a movement against overrreaching British trade acts in the 1760′s and were important to the impulse toward American independence. I’ve written fairly extensively about where and how I think the Tea Party goes wrong on the history of the founding period. But at least they’re framing their objections to current policy, and framing the historical roots of their ideas, not mainly in cultural but in economic terms.

Like it or not, though, it is Occupy Wall Street that has the most in common, ideologically, not with those Boston merchants and their supporters but with the less well-known, less comfortably acknowledged people who, throughout the founding period, cogently proposed and vigorously agitated for an entirely different approach to finance and monetary policy than that carried forward by the famous founders. Amid horrible depressions and foreclosure crises, from the 1750′s through the 1790′s, ordinary people closed debt courts, rescued debt prisoners, waylaid process servers, boycotted foreclosure actions, etc. (More on that here and here.) They were legally barred from voting and holding office, since they didn’t have enough property, so they used their power of intimidation to pressure their legislatures for debt relief and popular monetary policies. Their few leaders in legit politics included the visionary preacher Herman Husband, the weaver William Findley, and the farmer Robert Whitehill.

I found this article absolutely fascinating!

At the LA Times, there’s an editorial about the “message” of the “Occupy” protests along with a photo of protesters at LA City Hall.

The political left has been searching for the last couple of years to find an answer to the tea party. Some hoped last year’s rally in Washington led by TV comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, a response to right-wing rallies attended by such conservative media celebrities as Glenn Beck, would spark a national movement. That didn’t happen. Now they’re pinning their hopes on Occupy Wall Street, which in many ways is a mirror image of the tea party. Both groups are motivated by frustration over the rotten economy and are vague about causes and solutions, though if their positions could be summed up in a one-line manifesto, it might be: The tea party, dominated by elderly conservatives, blames government overspending and overreach for our economic problems and would therefore like to cut federal spending, while Occupy Wall Street, dominated by young liberals, blames corporate greed and would therefore like to tax the rich and decrease corporate political power.

It is, of course, far too early to suggest that Occupy Wall Street represents a resurgence of the left. But we do seem to recall that in its initial days the tea party was similarly dismissed by pundits, especially those on the left who preferred to see the protesters as kooks rather than the vanguard of a political shift. What matters isn’t the size of the protest, the attire of the demonstrators or the misspellings on their signs; it’s whether the relatively tiny number of people who can be bothered to show up and march can inspire and energize other like-minded people enough to get them to the polls.

Finally, at Huffpo, there’s a piece by Judith Samuelson: A Baby Boomer’s Advice to the Millennials Occupying Wall Street

Whether their disgust with Wall Street is fueled by a lack of jobs or a more complex analysis was not apparent to me, but I trust we will be hearing more from the Millennials. Scholars are suggesting they will be a force to be reckoned with. In fact, you might already be experiencing their tendency to want to be heard in the workplace, in the classroom or at the dinner table, for example.

There are a lot of them; 90 million by some count, comprising the largest generation in our history. They are the most racially diverse generation ever, and they have been, and are being, shaped by remarkable events such as 9/11 and the ongoing global recession; by their parents — the boomers of yore; and, of course by technology — the first generation to take instant communications for granted. I believe that Millennials will shape our response to issues that bedevil us — through their passion about social issues, their facility with technology and social networking, and through their continued willingness to vote — as they did in big numbers in the last Presidential election.

Many of them will go to business school — or are already there. A quarter of post-graduate degrees are in business, and 20 percent of undergraduates are pursuing business degrees. Even at liberal arts colleges that may not offer “business” as a major, students flock to economics instead, or as close as they can get to the subject. This may be the result of parental pressure to exit school with some hope of finding a job (unlike baby boomers, Millennials are close to their parents and apparently even listen to them) but it is also in pursuit of the skills, language and heroes they have grown up with — more Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg than Bob Dylan and Robert Redford.

The question I have been thinking about is how they will bridge these two worlds — passion for social issues, and comfort with technology and business. I know from experience that real change is hard; that to influence business, and Wall Street, requires people skills as well as analytics, patience, and multiple approaches to gain the attention and commitment of the power brokers who set the rules and design the reward systems. Protest is a not an insignificant part of the puzzle, however, and always has been; just ask Walmart, Nike or Nestle.

In the spirit of Baby Boomers’ sharing their experience, strength, and hope with the Millennials, here’s a boomer anthem that might be appropriate:

What are you reading and blogging about today? Please share!


Woman Air Passenger Gropes Breast of TSA Agent

Yukari Mihamae

I’m not surprised that it was a 61-year-old woman who finally gave a TSA agent a taste of her own medicine. The older I get, the less willing I am to put up with sh&t from other people. I’m guessing Yukari Mihamae has experienced the same kind growing inability to suffer indignities that I have. Not that I’m defending what she did…but I can understand where she was coming from when she did it.

Phoenix police say 61-year-old Yukari Mihamae is accused of grabbing the left breast of the unidentified TSA agent Thursday at an airport checkpoint.

TSA spokesperson Kawika Riley confirmed the altercation to msnbc.com in a statement: “On July 14 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, local law enforcement arrested a passenger for assaulting a TSA officer during the screening process.”

TSA staff say Mihamae refused to be go through passenger screening and became argumentative before she squeezed and twisted the agent’s breast with both hands.

When police showed up, the woman readily admitted grabbing and twisting the TSA agent’s left breast. Mihamae was arrested and charged with felony sexual abuse. She has since been released.

The Daily Mail has lots more. It seems Mihamae was on her way back home to Longmont, Colorado when the unfortunate incident took place. I’m guessing she had already experienced a number of indignities on her way to Phoenix, and she just got fed up and lost it. As reported in the Daily Mail article, one of Mihamae’s neighbors told a local TV station:

‘For her to be arrested for anything is totally shocking to me.

‘I am 100 per cent shocked,’ he told local station Fox 31.

He said that his neighbour travels about three days a week. Court records show that she is self-employed.

Wow! If she travels that much by air, no wonder she couldn’t take the TSA groping anymore! The TSA spokeperson had no idea why Mihamae would choose to do such thing. But supportive fans responded by setting up Facebook pages in her honor.

‘You go girl,’ ‘Fight the power’, and ‘My new hero’ were comments posted on Facebook groups set up calling for Mihamae to be acquitted.

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Saturday: Sailboats at Sunset

Escaping Dystopia 2011...

Morning, news junkies.

Chris Hedges ushered in 2011 by calling it a brave new dystopia. For a brief moment in time, the Egyptian and Wisconsin protests provided a glimmer of “there’s something happening here,” but then we were returned to our regularly scheduled dystopic nightmare. I don’t know about you, but lately I’m finding that the actual headlines these days sound more satirical than the ones in the Onion. They leave me either wanting to lolsob…or just sob. So, on that note…

Above, to the right… from National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel:

This photo of sailboats at sunset has us yearning for the sea, which makes it an Editors’ Pick for week one of our 2011 Traveler Photo Contest in the category of Outdoor Scenes. The photographer Ken Michael Jon Taarup writes, “Boracay has never ceased to amaze many people from all over the world. With its white crystal sand, pristine blue waters, and beautiful sunsets, this place still tops the list of the most visited and beautiful resorts in the Philippines.”

That’s so you have something calming to visualize while you read my Saturday picks.

Alright, grab your morning cuppa if you haven’t already, and read on.

Let’s just get the biggest distraction out of the way first…

Tornado aftermath: Pictures say a 1000 words

“Depressing women’s history news of the week”

Being pro-choice means understanding that self-determination for women regarding sex, sexuality, reproduction and motherhood is a fundamental precursor to womens’ ability to achieve their own educational, economic and familial aspirations, a fundamental precursor to the health and well-being of individuals and families, and a core condition of the long-term stability and health of society. It therefore also means understanding the profound connections for women–supported by more than ample evidence–between economic and educational status and unfettered access to comprehensive sexual health education, contraception, family planning services, and abortion care.

The War on Unions… now brought to you by Dems in MA?

The bill will take a month before coming to the state Senate, but the overwhelming vote in the House, and [Gov.] Patrick’s kinder, gentler rights-stripping plan, make it look like something’s going to happen in Massachusetts. Time to get out in the streets in another blue state.

“I’ve played at hundreds of protests and demonstrations, and this was really unique,” he said. “It was every segment of society. It was radical students and cops on the same side, and I’d never seen that before.”

Hillaryland

  • The otherwise serious and reliable Laura Rozen overreacted a bit to Hillary taking a few days of Easter R&R time off with her family. There’s a reason Hill was dubbed the “Energizer Secretary.” The woman works non-stop. She has a personal life that she’s entitled to attend to and/or just recharge every few years or so.

Click to view HQ. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

When Bushies fight… Get out your popcorn

First of all, I didn’t have modest experience in management. Managing Stanford University is not so easy. But I don’t know what Don was trying to say, and it really doesn’t matter. Don can be a grumpy guy. We all know that.

As always, Black Agenda Report tells it like it is…

  • This is an instant classic! Please read and disseminate. Bruce A. Dixon’s Top Ten Answers To Excuses For Obama’s Betrayals and Failures. Note Number 9 — it’s for all the Obamaphiles who won’t accept that Obama is the third Bush-Cheney term. And, to quote a snippet from Numero Uno (Re: “It’s our fault the Obama presidency hasn’t kept its commitments. We need to ‘make him do it.’”):

You cannot make a US president do what he fundamentally doesn’t want to. Michelle Obama is nice to look at, but she is no Eleanor Roosevelt. Franklin Roosevelt used to publicly bask in the hatred of wealthy banksters. Barack Obama’s dream is mostly not to piss off rich people.

  • For more on the atrocities of Bush-Cheney III, give BAR’s April 25th podcast a listen. In the first segment BAR’s Glen Ford interviews Labor Notes editor Mark Brenner, who sees no growth and no jobs on the horizon and says:

“Absolute disaster for working folks. If we follow the Ryan plan or if we follow the Obama plan, none of it spells good news for the rest of us.”

  • In another segment, Clarence Thomas, former Local 10 union secretary-treasury, says what one needs to understand is that this is not simply an attack on public sector workers, it is also an attack on public services.” Thomas says the goal is to put labor back where it was before the New Deal, noting that it is a corporate and rightwing agenda in which “the Democratic party is complicit.”

The ongoing crackdown on dissidents: Syria, China

In response to the brutality of the crackdown, President Barack Obama signed an executive order today instituting sanctions against the Syrian intelligence agency and two of Assad’s brothers, a White House official confirmed. Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Council voted in Geneva today to condemn the Syrian crackdown.

“The [Executive Order] is a watershed,” Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Envoy. “This is the first time an Assad has been designated by the [U.S. government], and the first time the USG has issued an EO on human rights in Syria. Until a few months ago Human Rights was a distant fifth on our list of issues with Syria. Now it’s emerged as the center of our policy.”

Ms. Cheng was arrested on what was supposed to have been her wedding day last fall for sending a single sarcastic Twitter message that included the words “charge, angry youth.” The government, lacking a sense of humor, sentenced her to a year in labor camp.

Timeout: Art break

We’re about halfway through, so click to read the rest… Read the rest of this entry »


Saturday: Solidarity, Sisterhood

Good morning, gleaners!

Grab your morning brew, and let’s go!

Wisconsin

  • It’s farmer-labor day today at the WI Capitol building, starting at noon, complete with a “tractorcade.”

Hillaryland

(second link will take you to an AFP report on Hillary’s remarks at Friday’s Women in the World conference in NY. See also her remarks at the 2011 Women of Courage event for more.)

  • This week–on International Women’s day no less–our advocate-in-chief helped to launch a Global Partnership on Maternal and Child Health, bringing a long-neglected development goal further out of the shadows. Brava, Madam Secretary!

(see also Hillary’s 100 Women Initiative. If you don’t know what it is, click and find out.)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, introducing the president of Kyrgyzstan at a State Department event.

Women’s Rights

  • See here for RH Reality Check’s exhaustive coverage of the latest developments from yesterday. Also, Minkoff Minx wrote to her Georgia state representative, Stephen Allison (R-8) and received a letter from Rep. Allison that you might find of interest. Scroll to the end of the post to see it.
  • My $0.02 on Allison’s response: The excuse that the most draconian of these bills will never pass is baloney. The rise of mini-Stupaks in states across the country has built up a momentum in the war against women, and that momentum is helping to get other horrible versions of these bills passed. Furthermore, the preponderance of such nonsense legislation clearly indicates a concerted effort to use women and their civil rights as a tool of division and distraction from the economy, degrading those rights in the process and blocking unfettered access to reproductive healthcare for women–all women. The rich will get their safe abortions on demand one way or another, and we all know it.

Tired of hearing about Charlie Sheen?

Economy

  • Bernie Sanders introduces The Emergency Deficit Reduction Act. Sanders’ press release says the bill would a) create a 5.4% surtax on millionaires, yielding up to $50 billion annually for the US Treasury, and b) end tax breaks for Big Oil, yielding about $3.5 billion a year in new revenue. Thank you, Bernie Sanders!

CLICK TO GO TO ECONOMIX

US Politics: 2012

  • US News & World Report says wedge issues are back just in time for the 2012 electoral cycle. In other news… Water? Yep, wet as ever. (When did wedge issues ever leave?)
  • Here’s a derivative piece if ever there was one… Cameron Lynch says Barack Obama is the “Surprisingly Silent President.” This echoes Ruth Marcus last week suddenly discovering that Obama is the “Where’s Waldo” president. Obama told America who he was from 2004 to 2008. The creative clueless class was too busy chattering away and creating “a different kind of politician” narrative to take note that Obama was telegraphing very clearly that he would make an indifferent kind of president.

Civil Liberties

King hearings

  • Adam Serwer (via the American Prospect) has an important read up that puts it all in perspective… Good Cop, Bad Cop: “On counterterrorism, the only difference between Republicans and Obama is rhetorical.”

Disaster in Japan and Elsewhere

(Also, Crowley confirmed his comments about Manning to The Cable:”What I said was my personal opinion. It does not reflect an official USG policy position. I defer to the Department of Defense regarding the treatment of Bradley Manning.”)

  • See the NYT’s photojournalism blog — Lens — for dramatic shots of the devastation from the 8.9 quake and tsunami in Japan, as well as other harrowing pictures from around the world yesterday, that tell the story of tragedy and strife.

Environment

  • “The way humanity manages or mismanages its nature-based assets, including pollinators, will in part define our collective future in the 21st century. Human beings have fabricated the illusion that in the 21st century they have the technological prowess to be independent of nature. Bees underline the reality that we are more, not less dependent on nature’s services in a world of close to seven billion people.”

–Achim Steiner, the executive director of UN Environment Programme

This Day in History (March 12)

  • First fireside chat: “It is your problem no less than it is mine. Together we cannot fail.” –FDR, 1933 (even FDR sounds like he’s saying Solidarity forever!)

What Kind of Liberal are You?

  • Take the quiz. I’m a “Working Class Warrior.” How about you?
  • I mostly linked to this silly quiz so I could share this priceless bumper sticker quote from the first question: “May the fetus you save be gay.”

Song of Protest for Saturday

Extra verse added to the PPM version: “Show me the famine, show me the frail, eyes with no future that show how we failed, and I’ll show you the children with so many reasons why there but for fortune, go you or I.”

I’m turning the Saturday reads over to you in the comments… Take the quiz and let us know how you score, share a song, link us to what’s on your blogging list this weekend…and have a great day!

[originally posted at Let Them Listen; crossposted at Taylor Marsh and Liberal Rapture]


Finally! Public Outrage Builds Against TSA Abuse of Power

John Tyner, 31, of Oceanside, CA

Thanks to John Tyner, an ordinary citizen from Oceanside, CA, who just wanted to enjoy a little pheasant hunting in South Dakota last weekend, the media spotlight is now on the TSA and its employees, some of whom are apparently power-mad and abusive to the travelers they are supposed to be protecting.

I’m sure you’ve heard about Tyner by now. He’s the man who refused a naked body scan at San Diego Airport, and then refused to be manhandled by TSA employees using their new security procedure, the “resolution pat-down,”

which requires TSA agents to grasp the body of the subject more firmly when running hands over limbs and also requires probing up to the genital areas of the body.

Tyner had the presence of mind to capture video of his encounter with the TSA, and he later posted the videos on you tube and on his blog, where he also described his experience in detail. Here’s an exerpt:

A male agent…directed me over to the far corner of the area for screening….he turned to me and began to explain that he was going to do a “standard” pat down. (I thought to myself, “great, not one of those gropings like I’ve been reading about”.) After he described, the pat down, I realized that he intended to touch my groin. After he finished his description but before he started the pat down, I looked him straight in the eye and said, “if you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.” He, a bit taken aback, informed me that he would have to involve his supervisor because of my comment.

We both stood there for no more than probably two minutes before a female TSA agent (apparently, the supervisor) arrived. She described to me that because I had opted out of the backscatter screening, I would now be patted down, and that involved running hands up the inside of my legs until they felt my groin. I stated that I would not allow myself to be subject to a molestation as a condition of getting on my flight. The supervisor informed me that it was a standard administrative security check and that they were authorized to do it. I repeated that I felt what they were doing was a sexual assault, and that if they were anyone but the government, the act would be illegal. I believe that I was then informed that if I did not submit to the inspection, I would not be getting on my flight. I again stated that I thought the search was illegal. I told her that I would be willing to submit to a walk through the metal detector as over 80% of the rest of the people were doing, but I would not be groped. The supervisor, then offered to go get her supervisor.

The upshot of all this was that Tyner was escorted out of the security area by a police officer and then after more consultations with supervisors, managed to get a refund on his ticket.

At this point, I thought it was all over. I began to make my way to the stairs to exit the airport, when I was approached by another man in slacks and a sport coat. He was accompanied by the officer that had escorted me to the ticketing area and Mr. Silva. He informed me that I could not leave the airport. He said that once I start the screening in the secure area, I could not leave until it was completed. Having left the area, he stated, I would be subject to a civil suit and a $10,000 fine. I asked him if he was also going to fine the 6 TSA agents and the local police officer who escorted me from the secure area. After all, I did exactly what I was told. He said that they didn’t know the rules, and that he would deal with them later. They would not be subject to civil penalties.

You get the idea. Tyner’s experience was Kafkaesque. The behavior of TSA and Airline employees was reminiscent of Joseph Heller’s descriptions of military red tape in Catch-22. Eventually Tyner did escape the airport without being groped, but the TSA isn’t through with him yet.

The TSA plans to “investigate” Tyner because he left the airport without being authorized by TSA to do so.

The Transportation Security Administration has opened an investigation targeting John Tyner, the Oceanside man who left Lindbergh Field under duress on Saturday morning after refusing to undertake a full body scan….

Michael J. Aguilar, chief of the TSA office in San Diego, called a news conference at the airport Monday afternoon to announce the probe. He said the investigation could lead to prosecution and civil penalties of up to $11,000.

TSA agents had told Tyner on Saturday that he could be fined up to $10,000.

“That’s the old fine,” Aguilar said. “It has been increased.”

So that’s it, folks. If you want to fly in the U.S. today, you either have to be photographed naked or you have to submit to a humiliating groping process that involves a stranger’s hands coming into contact with your genitals. That’s a Hobson’s choice if I’ve ever heard one. One way or another, you submit to an embarrassing situation in which you are vulnerable to the whims of strangers who may be drunk with power.

Naked body scan image

What’s the risk you take with the naked body scans? They expose you to radiation, and that may be dangerous for young children and elderly people. Many people would find the invasion of privacy and modesty embarrassing and humiliating. And how about the fact that some invisible total stranger may be examining your body and perhaps gawking at your body parts or ridiculing you? These scans show the body in detail and seem to highlight the genital area (see photo). Worst of all, although the government claims the naked images are immediately destroyed, that isn’t so clear.

Gizmodo published multiple stories about this issue today. Here’s a very creepy one you might like to take a look at: The TSA’s Sense of Humor Makes Me Nervous The story includes a photograph of a TSA computer with a highly offensive wallpaper image that apparently reflects TSA “humor” (see below)

The technology site also posted a video of 100 leaked naked body scans.

Wait a minute. Those images aren’t supposed to be saved, are they? Riiiiiight.

At the heart of the controversy over “body scanners” is a promise: The images of our naked bodies will never be public. U.S. Marshals in a Florida Federal courthouse saved 35,000 images on their scanner. These are those images.

A Gizmodo investigation has revealed 100 of the photographs saved by the Gen 2 millimeter wave scanner from Brijot Imaging Systems, Inc., obtained by a FOIA request after it was recently revealed that U.S. Marshals operating the machine in the Orlando, Florida courthouse had improperly-perhaps illegally-saved images of the scans of public servants and private citizens.

We understand that it will be controversial to release these photographs. But identifying features have been eliminated. And fortunately for those who walked through the scanner in Florida last year, this mismanaged machine used the less embarrassing imaging technique.

Yet the leaking of these photographs demonstrates the security limitations of not just this particular machine, but millimeter wave and x-ray backscatter body scanners operated by federal employees in our courthouses and by TSA officers in airports across the country. That we can see these images today almost guarantees that others will be seeing similar images in the future. If you’re lucky, it might even be a picture of you or your family.

Finally Gizmodo asks whether the scanners are being put into airports our safety or for the further enrichment of three giant corporations and their lobbyists. The Gizmodo story refers to this story by Timothy P. Carney:

If you’ve seen one of these scanners at an airport, there’s a good chance it was made by L-3 Communications, a major contractor with the Department of Homeland Security. L-3 employs three different lobbying firms including Park Strategies, where former Sen. Al D’Amato, R-N.Y., plumps on the company’s behalf. Back in 1989, President George H.W. Bush appointed D’Amato to the President’s Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism following the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Also on Park’s L-3 account is former Appropriations staffer Kraig Siracuse.

The scanner contract, issued four days after the Christmas Day bomb attempt last year, is worth $165 million to L-3.

Rapiscan got the other naked-scanner contract from the TSA, worth $173 million. Rapiscan’s lobbyists include Susan Carr, a former senior legislative aide to Rep. David Price, D-N.C., chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee. When Defense Daily reported on Price’s appropriations bill last winter, the publication noted “Price likes the budget for its emphasis on filling gaps in aviation security, in particular the whole body imaging systems.”

An early TSA contractor for full-body scanners was the American Science and Engineering company. AS&E’s lobbying team is impressive, including Tom Blank, a former deputy administrator for the TSA. Fellow AS&E lobbyist Chad Wolf was an assistant administrator at TSA and an aide to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who sits on the Transportation and Defense subcommittees of Appropriations. Finally, Democratic former Rep. Bud Cramer is also an AS&E lobbyist — he sat on the Defense and Transportation subcommittees of the Appropriations Committee.

It always comes down to money, doesn’t it? Personally I haven’t flown since before 9/11, and I am determined never to fly again until this outrageous violation of our privacy and civil liberties ends.