“When you're born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you're born in America, you get a front row seat.”
~ George Carlin.
~ George Carlin.
The freak show never stops.
I have not heard anyone complaining about the full-body x-rays that passengers at the Phoenix airport are going to have to undergo in the name of "security" and War on Terror®. As a matter of fact, I should probably start calling it "War on Terror, Inc.," because that's what it is. I wonder how much money the homeland security industry is making off of this, and I wonder how many highly-placed officials in the US government are on the board of directors of the producers of the machines or are lobbying for them. From CNN:
PHOENIX, Arizona (AP) -- Sky Harbor International Airport will test a new federal screening system that takes X-rays of passengers' bodies to detect concealed explosives and other weapons.
The technology, called backscatter, has been around for several years but has not been widely used in the U.S. as an anti-terrorism tool because of privacy concerns.
The Transportation Security Administration said it has found a way to refine the machine's images so that the normally graphic pictures can be blurred in certain areas while still being effective in detecting bombs and other threats.
The agency is expected to provide more information about the technology later this month but said one machine will be up and running at Sky Harbor's Terminal 4 by Christmas.
The security agency's Web site indicates that the technology will be used initially as a secondary screening measure, meaning that only those passengers who first fail the standard screening process will be directed to the X-ray area.
Even then, passengers will have the option of choosing the backscatter or a traditional pat-down search.
So they're still going to do a pat-down? Then why install the machines? What's the difference between this and a strip search for the person who's getting backscattered?
Some say the high-resolution images -- which clearly depict the outline of the passenger's body, plus anything attached to it, such as jewelry -- are too invasive.
But the TSA said the X-rays will be set up so that the image can be viewed only by a security officer in a remote location. Other passengers, and even the agent at the checkpoint, will not have access to the picture.
In addition, the system will be configured so that the X-ray will be deleted as soon as the individual steps away from the machine. It will not be stored or available for printing or transmitting, agency spokesman Nico Melendez said.
You can read more at AZCentral.com, and even see a photo product of the backscatter. Check out some of the comments of airport officials and residents:
"We did have concerns about the privacy issue before this current technology was available," Deputy Aviation Director Deborah Ostreicher said. "But we are assured that passengers will be protected."
Some residents find the idea a little unsettling.
"I know they are going to block out the private areas, but I am not convinced they couldn't keep from saving the pictures," said Tempe resident Genny Vogt, who flew from Sky Harbor to the East Coast several times this year. "I understand that Big Brother has to watch in this day and age, but I hope this doesn't become a necessary evil."
The airport official is "assured." By whom, and why should the "assurer" be trusted? The Tempe resident is on the right track by not being "convinced they couldn't keep from saving the pictures." No kidding. I guess the "assurance" people haven't gotten around to "assuring" the locals. The "assurance" people haven't gotten around to "assuring" the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) either:
Barry Steinhardt, head of the ACLU's technology and liberty program, told USA Today that the machines could lead to widespread abuse.
"It's absolutely predictable that as this technology becomes commonplace, you're going to start seeing those images all over the Internet," Steinhardt said.
Again: No kidding. However, the TSA official in the article is certain that everything will be just swell:
"It's my understanding that this is the latest and best version (of the technology), and it meets our (country's) standards for privacy," Armes said.
The TSA official is correct: This technology does meet America's privacy standard because there is absolutely no privacy in the US. Do YOU believe THEM? I don't. These security people are perverts. Does anyone remember the Department of Homeland Security guy who was busted in the summer for trying to seduce a 14-year-old girl? If you don't, refresh your memory. Maybe the weirdest thing about this whole backscatter-in-the-airport thing is the part about some TSA pervert sitting by himself (or herself)--alone--in some room watching virtually naked people on some kind of monitor. I mean, that is ultra creepy. How'd you like to have that job?
I'm thinking about the 4th Amendment, too, and what is supposed to be a constitutional guarantee of freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, without a warrant that must be issued "upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." In light of extremely invasive, privacy-violating technology, I think this amendment needs to be interpreted so that the person to be searched must also be described in said warrant.
Another item on the War on Terror, Inc. subject can be found at the NYTimes on the situation of Jose Padilla, the guy who was arrested a few years back and accused of being a "terrorist dirty-bomber." According to the article, the US government admits that it lied about the dirty-bomb charges, the al-Qaeda connection, the "enemy combatant" charge, and the charge to set off natural gas explosions in apartments. The government admits it lied about Padilla being involved with any plot against the US.
Padilla has been moved from a military brig to civilian custody and is now charged with "supporting terrorism," which is probably another crock of government shit.
The guy has been in custody for three years in solitary confinement, twenty-one months of which he was denied access to lawyers.
Andrew Patel, one of his [Padilla's] lawyers, said his isolation was not only severe but compounded by material and sensory deprivations. In an affidavit filed Friday, he alleged that Mr. Padilla was held alone in a 10-cell wing of the brig; that he had little human contact other than with his interrogators; that his cell was electronically monitored and his meals were passed to him through a slot in the door; that windows were blackened, and there was no clock or calendar; and that he slept on a steel platform after a foam mattress was taken from him, along with his copy of the Koran, “as part of an interrogation plan.”
[ . . . ]
In his affidavit, Mr. Patel said, “I was told by members of the brig staff that Mr. Padilla’s temperament was so docile and inactive that his behavior was like that of ‘a piece of furniture."
But a guy who is "docile and inactive" has to be manacled hand and foot, forced to wear "noise-blocking headphones over his ears and blacked-out goggles over his eyes," in order to be taken to the prison dentist? There is something severely wrong with this picture. This kind of prison treatment is what political prisoners in Turkey went on hunger strike about. Political prisoners in Turkey died fighting this kind of treatment. And this is what happens to an American citizen in the US? This is the "civilized" West? But then, the US supported this same kind of thing in Turkey, so I guess there's some kind of consistency somewhere here.
The only thing I see that Padilla did that might have pissed off the establishment was converting to Islam. Now, I have no love for religion, religious people, or even "spiritual" people (those are the cowards who refuse to have anything to do with religion but are hedging their bets anyway), but this detention of Padilla is wrong all the way around.
The last item for tonight is about another American convert to Islam, and the first ever Muslim elected to the US Congress, Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison. Everyone's raising a ruckus because the new congressman wants to be sworn in with his hand on the Quran instead of the Bible. Makes sense to me. Why would a Muslim take an oath on a Bible anyway? From USA Today:
The first Muslim elected to Congress hasn't been sworn into office yet, but his act of allegiance has already been criticized by a conservative commentator.
In a column posted Tuesday on the conservative website Townhall.com, Dennis Prager blasted Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison's decision to take the oath of office Jan. 4 with his hand on a Quran, the Muslim holy book.
"He should not be allowed to do so," Prager wrote, "not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American culture."
He said Ellison, a convert from Catholicism, should swear on a Christian Bible — which "America holds as its holiest book. … If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress."
The post generated nearly 800 comments on Townhall.com and sparked a tempest in the conservative blogosphere. Many who posted comments called the United States a Christian country and said Muslims are beginning to gain too much influence. Others wrote about the separation of church and state and said the Constitution protects all religions.
Dave Colling, Ellison's spokesman, said he was unavailable for comment. Earlier, Ellison told the online Minnesota Monitor, "The Constitution guarantees for everyone to take the oath of office on whichever book they prefer. And that's what the freedom of religion is all about."
Colling said Ellison's office has received hundreds of "very bigoted and racist" e-mails and phone calls since Prager's column appeared. "The vast majority said, 'You should resign from office if you're not willing to use the book our country was founded on,' " Colling said.
"Requiring somebody to take an oath of office on a religious text that's not his" violates the Constitution, said Kevin Hasson, president of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
If I recall correctly, many of the Founding Fathers did not consider themselves Christians. They considered themselves Deists, and since there is no official religion in the US (separation of church and state, you know), the US is not a Christian country. It's just a country, one that is quickly slipping into fascism, but still just a plain country all the same.
I have found one reasoned approach to the matter at Watching the Watchers:
1. You don't swear the oath of office to the House on anything. You simply raise your hand along with all the other newly elected Representatives, and recite a very short, non-religious oath. Exactly what I did earlier today at the County Court House as a condition of participating in a recount of the vote for State Auditor.
2. After the swearing in, most of these Representatives do employ a Bible in what amounts to an optional photo-op for the family picture album and for the constituents, but this has nothing to do with the required oath of office.
3. As noted in a Knight Ridder piece on this manufactured controversy a full four days ago:
In the National Review, Volokh noted that two former presidents - Franklin Pierce and Herbert Hoover - didn't swear their oaths but chose to affirm them.
He said the Supreme Court long had held that Americans had the right to be treated equally, regardless of their religion, and that forcing Ellison to use the Bible would violate his rights.
"Letting Christians swear the oath of office, while allowing members of other denominations only to swear what ends up being a mockery of an oath - a religious ceremony appealing to a religious belief system that they do not share - would be discriminatory," Volokh wrote.
Taking an oath on the Quran isn't unprecedented.
In 1999, the News-India Times reported that Osman Siddique, a Virginia businessman of Bangladeshi origin, used the Quran to take the oath when he became the U.S. ambassador to Fiji and three other Pacific nations: Nauru, Tonga and Tuvalu. He took the oath on the Bible and the Quran, with the Quran on top, the newspaper reported.
This is not the first round of staged outrage by the establishment weirdos over the first Muslim congressman. The first round came from Glenn Beck, a right-wing freak extraordinaire, on November 14, from MediaMatters:
On the November 14 edition of his CNN Headline News program, Glenn Beck interviewed Rep.-elect Keith Ellison (D-MN), who became the first Muslim ever elected to Congress on November 7, and asked Ellison if he could "have five minutes here where we're just politically incorrect and I play the cards up on the table." After Ellison agreed, Beck said: "I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.' " Beck added: "I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way."
You can read the transcript of the interview at the link above. It's pretty embarrassing for Beck and CNN.
Welcome to the freak show.