The TSA Trap

After our recent discovery, while checking in for a flight, that the name “David Smith” is on the No-Fly List, I’ve been thinking a lot about the illusory nature of airline security. But not as much as tech legend John Gilmore. His hometown paper has a great profile of the SUN co-founder and EFF funder that also chronicles his efforts to read the law that requires US citizens to show government-issued ID to board a plane. The article is great:

The government has been so unyielding on disclosure that men with the name David Nelson suddenly found themselves ejected from flights. Somewhere in the system, the name came up on the newly created “No Fly” list. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., found himself in the same dilemma. When baggage screeners were caught pilfering, prosecutions were dropped because a trial would require a discussion of “Sensitive Security Information.”

When John Gilmore demanded proof that the airport ID rule met Constitutional muster, the government at first declined to acknowledge it even existed.

Gilmore’s famed eccentricity is put to awfully good service in this cause. He is asking questions that most of us can’t afford to (he’s worth millions) out of the sheer necessity of travel. We may not even have time to notice we’re submitting to ever-more-arbitrary “security” requirements. But he’s smart enough to notice and ornery enough to stick with what most would consider a Quixotic effort.

“I will show a passport to travel internationally. I’m not willing to show a passport to travel in my own country,” Gilmore said. “I used to laugh at countries that had internal passports. And it’s happened here and people don’t even seem to know about it.”



A my friend Jan, who will hopefully soon be leaving Poland, sends this terribly disturbing article about the state of affairs there. His hometown of Cracow is at the center of a “gay panic” that is helping neo-fascist Catholic politicians cement their hold on Polish civic and political life. It’s a reminder that however bad things might be here, others have it much worse.

Poland’s incestuous marriage of nationalism and religion, whose most virulent and succesful mainstream political embodyment is the rightist League of Polish Families, has dire consequences for queers and women. There is an obsessive insistence on reproduction. The right-wing repeats ad nauseam the argument of Poland’s falling birthrate. “The fatherland is in danger,” politicians and the media cry out. “Poles are dying, there are no new generations, lesbians, gays and pedophiles do not reproduce. On the contrary, they are out to ambush and deprive your children!” In the past 12 months, the outlines of what is, in fact, a nationalist mobilization against an imagined enemy, queers, have become clear.

While Bush is making stops in the “democracies” of Eastern Europe, he might remind people that even in democracies the abuse of minorities is a slippery slope. Oh, wait– he uses the same tactics at home! What’s worse, the Poles are importing American homophobes to make their gay-bashing arguments. What we don’t stop here can quickly spread abroad!

Anyway, read the article.

Stabbed in the Kitchen

Since I love themes, and last week I brought to light the topic of my cleaning outfits, I thought that I would start a theme. Today: COOKING. Do you ever get frustrated in the kitchen? Does your Caesar turn fishy? Does that Crème Brulee burn instead of turning a golden brown? And God knows I hate it when the Tofurky turns to rubber!

Well, instead of kicking the dog, or pushing your mother down a flight of stairs, I have found the perfect answer to the end of Kitchen Frustration!

Good practice for America’s future as China’s bitch

I often wonder how Bush justifies his reflexive obedience to the will of the Saudis. My new theory, after reading this is that it might be a good thing. After just a few more years of Wal Mart helping the masses send all America’s jobs–and money–to China, we will have to be even more accomodating to China than Bush currently is to the Saudis. We don’t want it to be too much of a shock, now do we? [Cue new national anthem, Pets by Porno for Pyros.]

Even by those standards, though, Bush’s praise for a recent “anti-terrorism” conference help by the Saudis is stunning:

President Bush earlier this month dispatched top White House official Frances Fragos Townsend to head an official U.S. delegation attending an “anti-terrorism” conference in Saudi Arabia — a conference that aired vile anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist canards. Saudi Cleric Aed Al-Qarni noted at the conference that “The first to kill and use terrorism in the world were the Jews,” according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI); the cleric went on to describe September 11th as “an American terror attack.”

According to White House press secretary Scott McClellan, President Bush spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Abdallah on February 14th and “complimented the Crown Prince on last week’s successful counter-terrorism conference in Saudi Arabia.”

In addition to the American delegation led by Townsend, who serves as President Bush’s Homeland Security Advisor with the rank of Assistant to the President, the conference included participation from nations including Iran, Syria and Sudan — all state sponsors of terrorism, according to the Department of State. Senator Frank Lautenberg (NJ) first warned President Bush to avoid the conference in a February 4th letter to Bush.

Throughout and surrounding the conference, various Saudi clerics noted that “Jews and the Christians are Allah’s enemies,” and that Jihad — including attacks by insurgents in Iraq — is appropriate. In a poem read before Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan, it was noted that Osama bin Laden “was sent by the Jews.”

Isn’t it great to know that a president who thinks the Kyoto Treaty and the World Court aren’t appropriate fora for US participation agreed to participate in an event like this? Once again: What if Clinton had done it?

More bad science

The terrible inaccuracies in the government approved sex education programs are, tragically, old news already. But wait, there’s more! If that bad information fails you, you end up pregnant and then, heaven help you, you end up wanting to end your government mandated pregnancy, you’re in for more bad news.

In several states, women considering abortion are given government-issued brochures warning that the procedure could increase their chance of developing breast cancer, despite scientific findings to the contrary.

(In an unfortunate bit of freaky related news, Norma McCovey – that’s Jane Roe to the rest of us – has asked the Supreme Court to overthrow Roe vs. Wade.)

Women should have the right to accurate information about their health and well being, especially when it comes to something as life altering as child-bearing. Bullying women into having a baby through disinformation and fear is dishonest and thuggish and shameful.

Do I think abortion is wrong? None of your damn business. Do I think that handing out intentionally inaccuarate information in an attempt to influence your decision about abortion is wrong? You bet your ass I do.

This story infuriates me.

Christianity, GOP-style

Imagine how the rest of the world, especially the non-Christian world, must think the most important Christian values are in the United States:

I mean, say you’d never read the bible and you were trying to figure out what it’s all about based solely on how it’s represented in public politics. You’d have to assume that Jesus was this, like, insanely angry dude who had a lot of ideas about how the Romans ought to run their government and totally fucking hated gays more than anything. In fact, you would fairly guess that Jesus talked about his theories on sexuality, birthing, and science like 99% of the time, but maybe had, like, a passing hobby where he gave soup cans to lepers on thanksgiving or whatever.

(From Big Picnic via The Poor Man. )