Civil Liberties Ain’t US

“Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. On a candid examination of history we shall find that turbulence, violence, and abuse of power by the majority trampling on the rights of the minority, have produced factions and commotions, which in republics, have more frequently than any other cause produced despotism. If we go over the whole history of the ancient and modern republics, we shall find their destruction to have generally resulted from those causes.”

-James Madison, Speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention on Control of the Military, June 16, 1788 in:  History of the Virginia Federal Convention of 1788, vol. 1, p. 130 (H.B. Grigsby ed. 1890).

TSA blows it again, terrorizes passengers in Miami

On Monday, November 9, 2015 — in other words, well before the attacks in Paris — the TSA, combined with the paramilitary forces of its parent agency DHS (Department of Homeland Security) did again what it does best: overreact, in an almost certifiably insane way, to a security “breach” at an airport, and then terrorize scores of ordinary passengers just trying to go about their business:

Paramilitary police in Miami force passengers to leave plane at gunpoint

On Monday evening, an American Airlines flight from Miami, Florida to Barbados was boarded by a paramilitary police unit wielding assault rifles, who demanded that passengers put their hands on their heads as they were forced off the flight.

Large sectors of the airport were effectively placed under lockdown during the operation. The gates of terminal cafes and restaurants were closed, leaving patrons locked inside by iron bars as police SWAT teams decked out in body armor and toting assault rifles swept through the terminal.

Photos and videos posted to social media documented the egregious violation of passengers’ constitutional right to be free of unwarranted searches and seizures. “There were very large machine guns, body armor, all of that,” one passenger told a local CNN affiliate. “Very, very frightening.”

Some 70 flights were delayed and nine were diverted as a result of the lockdown, which shut down two concourses for almost three hours.

And what was the cause of all this mishigas?

Dental tools.

That’s right, dental tools.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation later admitted that the passenger was a dentist, and that the “suspicious” bag he had been carrying contained nothing more than fillings and other dental supplies.

TSA spokesman Mike England said that the lockdown was conducted “out of an abundance of caution” as federal officials “worked with airport operators to direct gate operations to cease while the passenger was located.”

Oh, evil tooth implements! Fie, fie on you, I say!

Bad dentist!

Oh, well. Get used to it, people. This is the new normal. And after the attacks in Paris, it will only get worse.

Taking out my old-fashioned phonograph once more, people have shown, again and again and again, that they’re willing to put up with anything — and I do mean anything — for the illusion of “security.”

We’ve crossed the Rubicon. There’s no going back. There’s only spiraling downward.

Photo: Cheri F. McGuire/Twitter

Chris Hedges: The Wages of Rebellion Part 2; and TSA

There are so many videos on YouTube of speeches by the great Chris Hedges. You can have a field day watching them. I feel honored that I’ve met Hedges and broken bread with him several times. He is one of the most upstanding, virtuous people I have ever met. He is a poet, a philosopher, a visionary, a historian, a Cassandra for our age.

His books are as infuriating as they are inspiring. And if you don’t read his weekly column at Truthdig or Nation of Change or Truthout — well, put the New York Times and Washington Post aside once in a while and read somebody with integrity, somebody who doesn’t suck up to power, who is unafraid to tell the unvarnished truth. If you have time to read a mainstream newspaper or watch network TV, you have time to read Hedges. The following quotation comes around 3:30 into the clip:

“How do you revolt?
“. . . I want people to understand when you seriously revolt what the state does to you.
“. . . revolt itself is a moral imperative. That asking the question as to whether it can succeed is the wrong question. Revolt is not finally about what we achieve . . . revolt is about what we become. 
“. . . I don’t fight fascists because finally I believe that I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists.”

(Originally posted at ABombazine)

Re TSA, WillCAD from FlyerTalk tells it like it is

I wish I knew this person’s real name to give him/her credit for this comment he/she posted at the chat forum FlyerTalk (FT). In it, he hits every nail on the head in a discussion with another FT member about the TSA. All I know is that he goes by “WillCAD” and says he hails from Charm City. (Yes, enough with the “he-slash-she”; people should be able to get it without going into fits over identity politics. He sounds like a guy to me.) Here’s his FT handle:

Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Baltimore, MD USA
Programs: Southwest Rapid Rewards. Tha… that’s about it.
Posts: 3,066

And here is his comment in its entirety (thanks to Susan Richart for alerting me to this):

Originally Posted by MelloncView Post
I WISH I HAD THE ANSWER. I’d be like a public policy master of some kind.

There is an answer… in about 27 parts. Outside audits with consequences for specific individuals who fail. Get rid of the paramilitary trappings (uniforms, badges, “officer” titles, honor guards, etc) and treat TSOs like what they are, clerks. Establish clear, non-secret, totally transparent procedures and rules, take away discretion from the screeners, and introduce a radically shrunken prohibited items list. Cease trumpeting ANY discoveries other than weapons as “big catches” – it’s not a big catch if you find drugs when you’re supposed to be looking for weapons. Put big, clear nametags on every TSA employee and require them to give their full name to anyone who asks. Post rules about photography being permissible and other passenger rights big and clear in every airport, and especially in every TSA break room. If someone breaks the rules, FIRE THEIR AZZ! Etc, etc, etc.

You don’t need to be a public policy master to understand common sense and plain accountability.

Originally Posted by MelloncView Post
I hear the Isarelies do a pretty good job but that’s adifferent bowl of wax over there since the existential challenges are literally right in front of your face.

Israel’s bowl of wax includes no formal Constitution, and there are enough loopholes on the Basic Laws of Human Dignity and Liberty to drive a truck through.

Whether or not Israel does “a pretty good job” with its aviation security depends entirely on your point of view and personal experience. I haven’t experienced it directly, but suffice it to say, I’ve heard opinions on both sides.

Originally Posted by MelloncView Post
With us, it’s only the painful memory that keeps our vigilance.

No, what’s been keeping our vigilance for the last ten years or so has been continual fear-mongering by those in the government and those in private industry who have a vested interest (politically, financially, or both) in keeping our levels of paranoia, suspicion, xenophonia, and panic at a high enough level to achieve carte blanche when it comes to spending money and restricting liberties in the pursuit of some unattainable state of safety and security.

Originally Posted by MelloncView Post
My short answer is that they really need to broaden the safe traveler or known traveller program. Get people like us (frequent travelers) out of these ridiculous lines and subject the rest of the herd to scrutiny.

My first thought when I read something like this consists of two words, one of which is not printable on this site, and the other of which is “you!”

Only frequent travelers have rights? No way, pal. I may be an infrequent traveler, but I’m a full-time human-freakin’-being, and I have the same rights and freedoms as you have. I ain’t gonna pay some extortion money to keep the rights and freedoms I have. When it comes to purchased services or special privileges from a private company, I say, Pay more, Get more. But when it comes to Constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms, I say, Millions for Defense* but not one penny for Tribute!

*In this context, I mean Defense against government abridgement of personal liberties, not against the way overblown danger of terrorism.

Originally Posted by MelloncView Post
Yes it costs money for us but unfortunately we got to pay for our freedom somehow.

Freedom isn’t free, but you don’t pay for it with money. If you’ve been buying boxes of New Freedom or Stayfree in the store, I’ve got news for you – that ain’t freedom you’re buying.

Although freedom has been purchased for us in blood, the true price of freedom is RISK, risk that someone will abuse their freedom to do others harm. That price cannot, MUST not, be borne by a few, but must be borne by all who wish to maintain their freedoms.

The money we pay for TSA doesn’t safeguard our freedoms one iota. In point of fact, we’re paying for our own government to destroy our freedoms and strip away our rights, all in the name of safety and security that are impossible to achieve.

Originally Posted by MelloncView Post
Devon suggestion is to outlaw hand guns altogether. No exceptions even in checked luggage. Makes it much easier to have a universal policy.

There already is a universal policy – firearms are prohibited in the cabin. What is banning firearms from checked bags going to accomplish? It’s a non-threat – passengers can’t access the luggage holds! I don’t know where you came up with this particular non-sequitur, but let me respond by saying that the price of tribbles on Benecia is on the rise, and the price of grapes in Carthage is on the decline.

Originally Posted by MelloncView Post
Third is to restrict visa allowances people from unfriendly countries. And stop pretending that we are about refugees defecting. The times of Elise Island and accepting the poor and the hungry are long over. We gotta be selective and smart about who we let in. Lastly I’d be in favor of folding the DHA into DOD, which has real soldiers and real powers. Just some suggestions.

Yipe. This paragraph is so full of…

Okay, I’ll just take it point by point:

1) Define “unfriendly countries.” And define the parameters you use to decide whose visas are denied based on their country of origin or citizenship. I believe we already have a list of countries put out by the State Department of those who are embargoed or are considered state sponsors of terrorism. But keep that xenophobia and bigotry up! I’m sure it keeps you warm at night.

2) We are still about refugees and always will be. The time of “Elise” island (by the way, it’s Ellis Island, Elise was Alex P. Keaton’s Mom on Family Ties) may be over, but the time of America welcoming those from other nations who wish to become Americans through hard work will never end. And we ARE selective and smart about who we let in. In fact, we may be a little TOO selective; skilled people from other countries who want to emigrate to the US often have a really difficult time getting in.

3) I have no idea what the DHA is, but if you’re referring to the DHS (Department of Homeland Security), then I think you’re out of your mind to want to fold it into the DOD (Department of Defense). The DOD encompasses the armed forces, which are used to defend the nation against armed invasion, and fights wars against other nations.

The DHS, on the other hand, is a …….ized agency cobbled together from domestic law enforcement and investigatory agencies. Ther is no way in hell I want the FBI – domestic national police force – to be part of the military. I even think it’s a tremendous mistake to have folded the US Coast Guard – a branch of military service tasked with defending US national waters – into the DHS.

The armed forces fight the country’s enemies. When you try to task them with policing the citizens of their country, they inevitably come to regard the citizens AS the enemy, and that’s when you get a military dictatorship or oligarchy or other form of tyrannical rule. The military should have no authority whatsoever over the people.

Nor should police forces be militarized into domestic occupation forces. Police forces in this country already tend to feel that they’re soldiers in a war, and they regard the citizenry as the enemy, which is why we have such a disconnect between the police and the people they’re supposed to be protecting and serving. The more militarized they get, the more they’ll feel like soldiers, and the more they feel like soldiers, the more they’ll act like soldiers.

Personally, I’d be in favor of abolishing DHS entirely and folding its constituent agencies back into the other federal departments from whence they originally came. The very name, Homeland Security, gave me chills from the first time I heard it, and not in a good way.

Well, this has been a rant, but let me sum up by saying simply that I completely disagree with everything you said.

Flying is a RIGHT, not a privilege. Anyone who says otherwise, just because the right to fly isn’t enumerated in the Constitution, is full of beans.
Bravo, bravo, bravo, a thousand times, WillCAD. I hope you see this. I would say I hope you’ll change some minds, but I already know from years of being at this that you won’t. It’s enough that you’re on the record with your eloquence and clear-sightedness. Thank you.

(Cross-posted at ABombazine)

Groped again, this time by TSA thug Jacqueline Tirre

At LAX on my way to the Evolutionary Psychology conference in Missouri, I was groped by TSA clerk Jacqueline Tirre (per her nametag). This was after she deliberately left my computer and possessions to sit there on the x-ray off-ramp, claiming the TSA didn’t have the personnel to get it.

TSA thug Jacqueline Tirre was manning the gate to the metal detector (which, by the way, the morons didn’t send me through), and was the one to search me — after standing there and ignoring my calls for a supervisor.

Other TSA thugs similarly ignored my calls for a supervisor and for someone to watch my possessions. So my stuff was just sitting out there, where it could’ve been stolen or, say, my computer knocked off the belt by all the travelers coming through. I was told to stand to the side waiting for Queen Thug to decide she’d take a grope break and feel me up.

This is a standard intimidation move for anyone who opts out of the scanner. We’ve had plenty of testimony by other travelers of the same thing, and yet more testimony, even going back years, before the gropes were implemented. It’s one of the many ways the TSA tries to punish people who opt out or who are perceived as not being deferential enough.

I bent over, jailhouse-search-style, and Tirre, a squat little middle-aged white woman with oddly applied lipstick (beyond the parameters of her lips), ordered me to not bend over like that.

Let’s be clear: this little turd of a woman earns money for violating the bodies and rights of American citizens and other travelers who have given no reason for anyone to believe they are doing anything criminal.

And as I’ve posted here before, anyone who is smart enough to make it in this blog’s comments section is smart enough to figure out how to get something onto a plane without going through the TSA gropefest.

As Tirre — disgustingly — touched my hair (as if I could hide C4 in hair pulled tight to my head), felt in my waistband, and grazed my labia — the fellow pictured above stood guard.

What did he think I was going to do, make a break for it? Run for my gate? Or is it that he just likes to watch women being forcibly felt up?

This scumbag earns money, as does Jacqueline Tirre, for violating my body and my Fourth Amendment rights in a meaningless pretense of security — one that really is obedience training for the American public, so we’ll be docile as our rights are yanked from us.

Again, the way you stop terrorism is through probable cause-based policing, using highly trained intelligence officers, long before anyone gets to the airport. It is not by giving a bunch of people faux cop costumes, encouraging them to go on a power trip, and allowing them to harass and assault passengers.

(Original version at Advice Goddess)

(Photo by Amy Alkon)