Archive for the ‘Wingnuts’ Category
Straight from CNN: “The defense bill that just passed the House of Representatives includes a back-door fund that lets individual members of Congress funnel millions of dollars into projects of their choosing.
This is happening despite a congressional ban on earmarks — special, discretionary spending that has funded Congress’ pet projects back home in years past, but now has fallen out of favor among budget-conscious deficit hawks.
Under the cloak of a mysteriously-named “Mission Force Enhancement Transfer Fund,” Congress has been squirreling away money — like $9 million for “future undersea capabilities development,” $19 million for “Navy ship preliminary design and feasibility studies,” and more than $30 million for a “corrosion prevention program.”
So in a year dominated by demands for spending cuts, where did all the money come from?
Roughly $1 billion was quietly transferred from projects listed in the president’s defense budget and placed into the “transfer fund.” This fund, which wasn’t in previous year’s defense budgets (when earmarks were permitted), served as a piggy bank from which committee members were able to take money to cover the cost of programs introduced by their amendments.
And take they did.
More than $600 million went to a wide number of projects, many of which appear to directly benefit some congressional districts over others.
For example, that $9 million for “future undersea capabilities development” was requested by Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Connecticut, whose district happens to be home to General Dynamics Electric Boat, a major supplier of submarines and other technologies to the U.S. Navy.
And the $19 million for “Navy ship preliminary design and feasibility studies”? Rep. Steve Palazzo, R-Mississippi, asked for that. His district’s largest employer is Ingalls Shipbuilding — a major producer of surface combat ships for the Navy.
Nothing in these expenditures appears to be illegal, but critics say they still may violate the spirit, if not the language, of the earmark ban.
“These amendments may very likely duck the House’s specific definition of what constitutes an earmark, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t pork,” says Leslie Paige of Citizens Against Government Waste, a government-spending watchdog group. The group believes if modification of the National Defense Authorization Act generated savings, that money should have been put toward paying down the deficit.
In their defense, supporters say the amendments offered by various members may very well represent good governance. The $30 million Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Ohio, set aside for corrosion prevention could go far to help tackle the Defense Department’s corrosion problem, estimated to cost the military more than $15 billion a year.
However, there are two things worth considering: Sutton’s request comes on top of the $10 million already included in the bill for corrosion related programs, and Sutton’s district is home to The University of Akron, which created the country’s first bachelor’s degree program for corrosive engineering in 2008.
Then, on May 9, two days before the defense bill mark-up, it was announced that the Defense Department had given the University of Akron $11 million to build its new “National Center for Education and Research in Corrosion and Materials Performance.”
Sutton was the biggest supporter of that new spending.”
Straight from Fox News: “The Electoral College could be inching closer to extermination as California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Monday that would award the state’s 55 electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote.
The bill would take effect only if the states that hold a majority of the 538 electoral votes approve similar legislation. With California’s addition, that total now stands at 132, almost 49 percent of the 270 needed.
Under the electoral college, people don’t actually vote for president. They vote for electors, who then vote for president. It was developed as a compromise between those who wanted Congress to elect the president and those who wanted the president elected by popular vote.
California Assemblyman Democrat Jerry Hill, who introduced the bill, said the change would make California more relevant in presidential elections by forcing candidates to campaign in the state.
Former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger twice vetoed previous versions of the bill. At the time, Schwarzenegger said he did not want California’s electoral votes awarded to a candidate a majority of the state had not supported.
Seven states and the District of Columbia have passed similar bills.
The last person to win the presidency despite losing the popular vote was George W. Bush in 2000.”
Straight from Fox News: “The U.S. government has warned domestic and international airlines that some terrorists are considering surgically implanting explosives into humans to carry out attacks, The Associated Press has learned.
There is no intelligence pointing to a specific plot, but the U.S. shared its concerns last week with executives at domestic and international carriers.
People traveling to the U.S. from overseas may experience additional screening at airports because of the threat, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
“These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same activity at every international airport,” TSA spokesman Nick Kimball said. “Measures may include interaction with passengers, in addition to the use of other screening methods such as pat-downs and the use of enhanced tools and technologies.”
Placing explosives and explosive components inside humans to hide bombs and evade security measures is not a new idea. But there is new intelligence pointing to a fresh interest in using this tactic, a U.S. security official told the AP. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive security information.
When the U.S. government receives information suggesting terror tactics that could threaten commercial aviation, the TSA alerts companies domestically and abroad. Last December, the U.S. received intelligence that al-Qaida’s Yemen branch was considering hiding explosives inside insulated beverage containers to carry them on airplanes. That warning was shared with domestic and foreign airlines so that security could be on the lookout, even though there was no specific plot.
Airport security has increased markedly since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. But terrorists remain interested in attacking aviation and continue to adapt to the new security measures by trying to develop ways to circumvent them.”
“The last nail is being driven into the coffin of the American Republic. Yet, Congress remains in total denial as our liberties are rapidly fading before our eyes. The process is propelled by unwarranted fear and ignorance as to the true meaning of liberty. It is driven by economic myths, fallacies and irrational good intentions. The rule of law is constantly rejected and authoritarian answers are offered as panaceas for all our problems. Runaway welfarism is used to benefit the rich at the expense of the middle class. Who would have ever thought that the current generation and Congress would stand idly by and watch such a rapid disintegration of the American Republic? Characteristic of this epic event is the casual acceptance by the people and political leaders of the unitary presidency, which is equivalent to granting dictatorial powers to the President. Our Presidents can now, on their own:
1. Order assassinations, including American citizens,
2. Operate secret military tribunals,
3. Engage in torture,
4. Enforce indefinite imprisonment without due process,
5. Order searches and seizures without proper warrants, gutting the 4th Amendment,
6. Ignore the 60 day rule for reporting to the Congress the nature of any military operations as required by the War Power Resolution,
7. Continue the Patriot Act abuses without oversight,
8. Wage war at will,
9. Treat all Americans as suspected terrorists at airports with TSA groping and nude x-raying.
And the Federal Reserve accommodates by counterfeiting the funds needed and not paid for by taxation and borrowing, permitting runaway spending, endless debt, and special interest bail-outs.
And all of this is not enough. The abuses and usurpations of the war power are soon to be codified in the National Defense Authorization Act now rapidly moving its way through the Congress. Instead of repealing the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), as we should, now that bin Laden is dead and gone, Congress is planning to massively increase the war power of the President. Though an opportunity presents itself to end the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, Congress, with bipartisan support, obsesses on how to expand the unconstitutional war power the President already holds. The current proposal would allow a President to pursue war any time, any place, for any reason, without Congressional approval. Many believe this would even permit military activity against American suspects here at home. The proposed authority does not reference the 9/11 attacks. It would be expanded to include the Taliban and “associated” forces—a dangerously vague and expansive definition of our potential enemies. There is no denial that the changes in s.1034 totally eliminate the hard-fought-for restraint on Presidential authority to go to war without Congressional approval achieved at the Constitutional Convention. Congress’ war authority has been severely undermined since World War II beginning with the advent of the Korean War which was fought solely under a UN Resolution. Even today, we’re waging war in Libya without even consulting with the Congress, similar to how we went to war in Bosnia in the 1990s under President Clinton. The three major reasons for our Constitutional Convention were to:
1. Guarantee free trade and travel among the states.
2. Make gold and silver legal tender and abolish paper money.
3. Strictly limit the Executive Branch’s authority to pursue war without Congressional approval.
1. Federal Reserve notes are legal tender, gold and silver are illegal.
2. The Interstate Commerce Clause is used to regulate all commerce at the expense of free trade among the states.
3. And now the final nail is placed in the coffin of Congressional responsibility for the war power, delivering this power completely to the President—a sharp and huge blow to the concept of our Republic.
In my view, it appears that the fate of the American Republic is now sealed—unless these recent trends are quickly reversed.
The saddest part of this tragedy is that all these horrible changes are being done in the name of patriotism and protecting freedom. They are justified by good intentions while believing the sacrifice of liberty is required for our safety. Nothing could be further from the truth.
More sadly is the conviction that our enemies are driven to attack us for our freedoms and prosperity, and not because of our deeply flawed foreign policy that has generated justifiable grievances and has inspired the radical violence against us. Without this understanding our endless, unnamed, and undeclared wars will continue and our wonderful experience with liberty will end.” – Ron Paul, Speech to the House, May 25th, 2011
Straight from the New York Times: “Two senators claimed on Thursday that the Justice Department had secretly interpreted the so-called Patriot Act in a twisted way, enabling domestic surveillance activities that many members of Congress do not understand.
At the same time, Congress and the White House were rushing to enact legislation to prevent a lapse in several of the federal government’s investigative powers under the Patriot Act that were set to expire at midnight. The Senate passed the bill 72 to 23 late in the afternoon, and within hours the House approved it 250 to 153. In an unusual move, a White House spokesman said that President Obama, who was in Europe, would “direct the use” of an autopen machine to sign the bill into law without delay.
During the debate, Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and a member of the Intelligence Committee, said that the executive branch had come up with a secret legal theory about what it could collect under a provision of the Patriot Act that did not seem to dovetail with a plain reading of the text. “I want to deliver a warning this afternoon: When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry,” Mr. Wyden said. He invoked the public’s reaction to the illegal domestic spying that came to light in the mid-1970s, the Iran-contra affair, and the Bush administration’s program of surveillance without warrants.
Another member of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado, backed Mr. Wyden’s account, saying, “Americans would be alarmed if they knew how this law is being carried out.”
The Obama administration declined to explain what the senators were talking about. Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman, said that Congressional oversight committees and a special panel of national security judges — known as the FISA Court — were aware of how the executive branch was interpreting and using surveillance laws.
“These authorities are also subject to extensive oversight from the FISA Court, from Congress, from the executive branch,” Mr. Boyd said.
Mr. Wyden has long denounced the idea of “secret law” — classified memorandums and rulings about the meaning of surveillance law developed by executive branch officials and the FISA Court. He and Mr. Udall had proposed requiring the Justice Department to make public its official interpretation of what the Patriot Act means. The chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, agreed to hold a hearing on their concerns next month.
The two had also sponsored a proposal to tighten the circumstances in which one of the expiring provisions, known as Section 215, could be used. It allows the F.B.I. to obtain “any tangible things” — like business records about customers.
Mr. Udall criticized Section 215, saying it lets the government get private information about people without a link to a terrorism or espionage inquiry.
In a 2009 debate over the Patriot Act, another member of the Intelligence Committee, Russell Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, also hinted that Section 215 was being used in a secret way that, he said, “Congress and the American people deserve to know” about. He was defeated for re-election in 2010.
The business records section of the Patriot Act had been set to expire, along with provisions allowing the F.B.I. to obtain “roving” wiretap orders to follow suspects who change phone numbers, and to obtain national security wiretaps against noncitizen terrorism suspects who are not connected to any foreign power.
Congressional leaders had agreed to extend the provisions before they expired. But Senator Rand Paul, a libertarian-leaning Republican from Kentucky, initially blocked an expedited vote on the bill because he wanted Senate leaders to allow a vote on several amendments. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, allowed votes on two Paul amendments, which would have offered greater privacy protections for records involving gun sales and banking.”
“It will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy.”
With this Barack Obama openly, unreservedly and without a trace of irony or self-reflection adopts the Bush Doctrine, which made the spread of democracy the key U.S. objective in the Middle East.
“Too many leaders in the region tried to direct their people’s grievances elsewhere. The West was blamed as the source of all ills.”
Note how even Obama’s rationale matches Bush’s. Bush argued that because the roots of 9/11 were to be found in the deflected anger of repressed Middle Eastern peoples, our response would require a democratic transformation of the region.
“We have a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self-determination of individuals.”
A fine critique of exactly the kind of “realism” the Obama administration prided itself for having practiced in its first two years.
How far did this concession to Bush go? Note Obama’s example of the democratization we’re aiming for. He actually said:
“In Iraq, we see the promise of a multiethnic, multisectarian democracy. There, the Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence for a democratic process . . . Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region.”
Hail the Bush-Obama doctrine.
“President Assad now has a choice: he can lead that transition [to democracy], or get out of the way.”
The only jarring note in an otherwise interesting, if convoluted, attempt to unite all current “Arab Spring” policies under one philosophical rubric. Convoluted because the Bahrain part was unconvincing and the omission of Saudi Arabia was unmistakable.
Syria’s Assad leading a transition to democracy? This is bizarre and appalling. Assad has made all-out war on his people — shooting, arresting, executing, even using artillery against cities. Yet Obama is still holding out the olive branch when, if anything, he should be declaring Assad as illegitimate as Gaddafi. Clearly, some habits
of engagement/appeasement die hard.
“A lasting peace will involve . . . Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people.”
Meant to reassure Israelis that the administration rejects the so-called right of return of Palestinian refugees. They would return to Palestine, not Israel — Palestine being their homeland, and Israel (which would cease to be Jewish if flooded with refugees) being a Jewish state. But why use code for an issue on which depends Israel’s existence?
“The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”
A new formulation favorable to maximal Arab demands. True, that idea has been the working premise for negotiations since 2000. But no president had ever before publicly and explicitly endorsed the 1967 lines.
Even more alarming to Israel is Obama’s omission of previous American assurances to recognize “realities on the ground” in adjusting the 1967 border, meaning U.S. agreement that Israel would incorporate the thickly populated, close-in settlements in any land swap. By omitting this, Obama leaves the impression of indifference to the fate of these settlements. This would be a significant change in U.S. policy and a heavy blow to the Israeli national consensus.
“The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves . . . in a sovereign and contiguous state.”
Normal U.S. boilerplate except for one thing: Obama refers to Palestinian borders with Egypt, Jordan and Israel. But the only Palestinian territory bordering Egypt is Gaza. How do you get contiguity with Gaza? Does Obama’s map force Israel to give up a corridor of territory connecting the West Bank and Gaza? This is an old Palestinian demand that would cut Israel in two. Is this simply an oversight? Or a new slicing up of Israel?
Finally, in calling for both parties to “come back to the table,” the Palestinians have to explain “the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas. . . . How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?”
Not a strong statement about Washington rejecting any talks involving Hamas. A mere placeholder.
On the other hand, Obama made no mention here of Israeli settlements. A mere oversight? Or has Obama finally realized that his making a settlement freeze a precondition for negotiations — something never demanded before he took office — was a disastrous unforced error? One can only hope.”
Straight from Fox News: “His one-issue message went viral, making him an instant celebrity. Now, the former gubernatorial candidate from the “Rent Is Too Damn High Party” is running for president – as a Republican.
Jimmy McMillan made headlines last October when a televised debate for governor of New York introduced New Yorkers — and the country — to his simple, recurring message – “The Rent is Too Damn High.”
The debate had hundreds of thousands of hits on YouTube within days and sparked a song, t-shirts, buttons, DVDs and a spoof on “Saturday Night Live”. His newfound fame didn’t win him the election, but that hasn’t stopped the Vietnam veteran from Brooklyn, New York.
In February, he filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to run as a Republican in the 2012 Presidential race. And he’s broadened his message.
“Rent is too damn high is my slogan. Gasoline is too damn high is my slogan and the deficit is too damn high,” McMillan told Fox News. “And last but not least, everything is too damn high and that is my entire slogan to help get this country on the right track.”
McMillan says the country has been “punked” by the Democratic Party and wants Congress and the President to take working people seriously.
“The world is in turmoil,” McMillan says. “What is happening in the Arab world is happening here, corrupt government, and I’m here to change that and I’m not playin’. I hope everybody takes me serious. This is not a joke. This is not Saturday Night Live.”
McMillan is still looking for a First Lady. His website claims McMillan “has been single for more than 30 years and is looking for a date.”"
Straight from the New York Times: “The police do not need a warrant to enter a home if they smell burning marijuana, knock loudly, announce themselves and hear what they think is the sound of evidence being destroyed, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday in an 8-to-1 decision.
The issue as framed by the majority was a narrow one. It assumed there was good reason to think evidence was being destroyed, and asked only whether the conduct of the police had impermissibly caused the destruction.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the majority, said police officers do not violate the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches by kicking down a door after the occupants of an apartment react to hearing that officers are there by seeming to destroy evidence.
In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that the majority had handed the police an important new tool.
“The court today arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement in drug cases,” Justice Ginsburg wrote. “In lieu of presenting their evidence to a neutral magistrate, police officers may now knock, listen, then break the door down, never mind that they had ample time to obtain a warrant.”
The case, Kentucky v. King, No. 09-1272, arose from a mistake. After seeing a drug deal in a parking lot, police officers in Lexington, Ky., rushed into an apartment complex looking for a suspect who had sold cocaine to an informant.
But the smell of burning marijuana led them to the wrong apartment. After knocking and announcing themselves, they heard sounds from inside the apartment that they said made them fear that evidence was being destroyed. They kicked the door in and found marijuana and cocaine but not the original suspect, who was in a different apartment.
The Kentucky Supreme Court suppressed the evidence, saying that any risk of drugs being destroyed was the result of the decision by the police to knock and announce themselves rather than obtain a warrant.
The United States Supreme Court reversed that decision on Monday, saying the police had acted lawfully and that was all that mattered. The defendant, Hollis D. King, had choices other than destroying evidence, Justice Alito wrote.
He could have chosen not to respond to the knocking in any fashion, Justice Alito wrote. Or he could have come to the door and declined to let the officers enter without a warrant.
“Occupants who choose not to stand on their constitutional rights but instead elect to attempt to destroy evidence have only themselves to blame,” Justice Alito wrote.
Justice Alito took pains to say that the majority was not deciding whether an emergency justifying an exception to the warrant requirement — an “exigent circumstance,” in legal jargon — actually existed. He said that the Kentucky Supreme Court “expressed doubt on this issue” and that “any question about whether an exigency actually existed is better addressed” by the state court.
All the United States Supreme Court decided, Justice Alito wrote, was when evidence must be suppressed because the police had created the exigency. Lower courts had approached that question in some five different ways.
The standard announced Monday, Justice Alito wrote, had the virtue of simplicity.
“Where, as here, the police did not create the exigency by engaging or threatening to engage in conduct that violates the Fourth Amendment,” he wrote, “warrantless entry to prevent the destruction of evidence is reasonable and thus allowed.”
But “there is a strong argument,” Justice Alito added, that evidence would have to be suppressed where the police did more than knock and announce themselves. In general, he wrote, “the exigent circumstances rule should not apply where the police, without a warrant or any legally sound basis for a warrantless entry, threaten that they will enter without permission unless admitted.”
Justice Ginsburg, dissenting, said the majority had taken a wrong turn.
“The urgency must exist, I would rule,” she wrote, “when the police come on the scene, not subsequent to their arrival, prompted by their own conduct.”
Justice Ginsburg then asked a rhetorical question based on the text of the Fourth Amendment.
“How ‘secure’ do our homes remain if police, armed with no warrant, can pound on doors at will and, on hearing sounds indicative of things moving, forcibly enter and search for evidence of unlawful activity?” she asked.”
Straight from Fox News: “President Obama is once again hitting the road, or perhaps the trail, to sell his financial prescription for the country. But a day after a leading agency put the U.S. government on notice that it was at risk of losing its sterling credit rating, the president faces a heavy lift in convincing voters that Washington is on track toward fixing its debt problem.
Standard & Poor’s Ratings Service sent shock waves through economic and political circles Monday when it lowered its outlook for U.S. debt from “stable” to “negative.” Though it kept U.S. credit ratings steady, the agency warned that political deadlock could compel it to downgrade Washington’s rating in just a couple years.
Anyone who has dealt with a less-than-stellar credit rating knows how that complicates their ability to obtain anything from a car loan to a mortgage. And while the White House downplays the S&P outlook, others say it should serve as a wake-up call for the country to get out of debt.
“No one can portray this as good news when a rating agency decides to go public with its reservations,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office during the George W. Bush administration. He said not only does this pose a credit problem for the country, but it jeopardizes the ability of the United States to attract investment from job-creators.
“That’s not hard for people to understand,” he told FoxNews.com.
Obama and his team are working hard to play down the announcement and keep spirits high about the possibility of a meaningful deficit-reduction agreement. The president gave a talk about his budget vision Tuesday morning at a community college in northern Virginia, where he expressed confidence in the possibility of a deal.
“I believe that Democrats and Republicans can come together to get this done,” Obama said. He agreed that failing to address the crisis could do “serious damage’ to the economy, but said he’s “optimistic.”
The president, repeating the backstory he gave during last week’s budget address, blamed the deficit problem in large part on Bush-era tax cuts for top earners, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Medicare prescription drug benefit, while defending the deficit-financed stimulus programs under his watch. He expressed the problem in everyday terms, saying, “Just like you, America has to start living within its means.”
The president also tried to rally support for his proposals, telling the audience: “I want everybody to be in the game.”
After Virginia, Obama plans to speak at the Facebook headquarters in California Wednesday and head next to Reno, Nev., on Thursday.
The S&P announcement was in large part a political judgment — the ratings agency based its assessment on the sentiment that a budget agreement addressing the country’s long-term deficit and debt problem might not be reached until after the 2012 election. The Obama administration claims the atmosphere for consensus is better than S&P predicts.
“We think that the political process will outperform S&P expectations,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday. He said both parties agree on a long-term deficit-reduction target of about $4 trillion — Obama is looking to achieve that in 12 years, while Republicans are shooting for a little bit more than that in 10 years — and that they can find common ground on how to reach it.
“A statement that observes the fact that there is often gridlock in Washington and that the contentiousness between the two parties sometimes prevents us from getting things done is not one we would disagree with,” Carney said. “But the fact is … when the issues are important, history shows that both sides can come together and get things done. President Ronald Reagan did that with Tip O’Neill, Democratic speaker of the House. President Bill Clinton did it with Newt Gingrich, Republican speaker of the House. President Obama did it 10 days ago with John Boehner, Republican speaker of the House. We can do it again.”
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, in an interview with Fox Business Network Tuesday morning, said there is no risk the country will lose its AAA credit rating.
Republicans, though, do not appear to share that optimism, absent an agreement that ties big spending cuts to a looming vote on whether to raise the country’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. The White House does not want the debt-ceiling vote contingent on a spending agreement, but Republicans are pushing to link the two.
House Republican Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., in a pre-buttal to Obama’s deficit talk in northern Virginia, wrote in the Culpeper Star-Exponent newspaper Tuesday that the country is “at a crossroads.” He championed the GOP budget proposal, which would make major changes to Medicare and Medicaid.
“Today, President Obama will come to Virginia to deliver the latest in a series of speeches high on partisan attacks, low on solutions,” Cantor wrote. “Mr. President, during your historic bid for the White House, you promised to change the way Washington works. But there’s no greater manifestation of the business-as-usual mentality than punting tough decisions and attacking those offering serious solutions.”"
Straight from Fox News: “House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said he was thankful after Sen. Charles Schumer accidentally spoke before a recorded conference call started.
“Chuck Schumer did us a favor. He exposed their tactic. He’s telling his members to deem any spending cut as unreasonable. I don’t see how we can do anything if they’re not set serious.” Cantor said.
Schumer had scheduled a conference call with reporters, but apparently didn’t realize journalists were already on and started giving off pointers on how to talk to reporters about the budget process.
Like many other news outlets, Fox News was rolling on the conference call ahead of time and caught the Schumer misstep.
He expressed appreciation for lawmakers getting on the call and then lashed into Republicans and told fellow Democrats that they should frame the GOP view as “extreme” and associated with the Tea Party.
“[I] always use the word extreme, that’s what the caucus instructed me to do the other week, extreme cuts and all these riders, and [House Speaker] Boehner’s in a box. But if he supports the Tea Party there’s going to inevitably [be] a shutdown,” Schumer could be heard saying.
At this point the line goes silent and reporters can be heard asking what happened and others remarking that they were listening to something that was not meant for them.
The call did finally go on as planned and the word “extreme” was eventually used. Democratic Sens. Boxer, Cardin, Carper and Blumenthal weighed in on the issue, stressing the urgency of the matter and that both sides will have to compromise.
Lawmakers are embroiled in a tough showdown over the budget, and facing another Continuing Resolution that will keep the government funded for a short amount of time or face a shutdown.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, also referenced the call in a news conference saying that while Schumer is framing the conversation, they’ve actually been doing leg work on the issue.
Straight from ABC News: “As Congress turns its attention to the budget and the country’s fiscal situation, the debt ceiling debate that has been simmering underneath the surface could come to a boil in the near future.
The Treasury Department estimates that the United States will reach its debt limit between April 15 and May 31. Administration officials are ringing alarm bells and warning of dire consequences if the $14.3 trillion ceiling isn’t raised.
But Republican lawmakers say they won’t commit to such a move until President Obama takes bold steps in tackling entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that are weighing down the country’s pocketbook.
“Republicans in the Senate will not be voting to raise the debt ceiling unless we do something significant about the debt,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said earlier this month. “I don’t think he has to lay out in public exactly what he’s willing to do, but we need to begin serious discussions, and time’s a wasting.
Senate Republicans reportedly are working on a Balanced Budget Amendment, a Constitutional amendment that would require a balanced budget every year, as a condition to raising the debt ceiling.
While the debate over the debt limit and budget is taking place far from the purview of most Americans, its repercussions can be significant.
Raising the debt limit doesn’t mean the federal government will be allowed to spend more. Rather, it’s a tool to allow Treasury to make payments to vendors under the budget passed by Congress.
If the debt ceiling is not raised, the Treasury may not be able to make payments to agencies, which could result in delayed Social Security and Medicare checks. The Treasury has mechanisms in place that could delay the negative ripple effects for some time, and experts say the two parties are likely to come to aresolution before that tipping point is reached.
“Hitting the ceiling is not this cataclysmic event,” said Phillip Swagel, an economist and former assistant secretary for economic policy at the Treasury Department. “It’s not good, but the treasury can continue to deal with it. … It has the ability to prioritize some payments over other payments.”
Where it would have a bigger impact is negatively impacting the United States’ image among international investors, which could lead to a surgein interest rates and devaluation of the dollar.
“That’s the real risk at this point,” said Lynn Reaser, chief economist for Point Loma Nazarene University and a former chief economist at Bank of America. “The debt ceiling is being used as a tool to perhaps gain some real progress in deficit reduction, but failure to achieve success could send some of the same kind of message as we saw in Portugal,” the debt-ridden nation that could become the third European country to need a bailout.
“We have seen in the case of Europe how markets can punish a country if there is concern about fiscal integrity,” Reaser said.”
Straight from Fox News: “Bypassing Democrats hiding out in Illinois, Wisconsin Senate Republicans voted Wednesday night to strip state workers of their collective bargaining rights.
Republicans voted 18-1 to pass the stripped-down budget bill in a hastily arranged meeting. None of the Senate Democrats were present.
The State Assembly is expected to vote on the bill Thursday.
All 14 Senate Democrats fled to Illinois nearly three weeks ago, preventing the chamber from having enough members present to consider Gov. Scott Walker’s so-called “budget repair bill” — a proposal introduced to plug a $137 million budget shortfall..
The Senate requires a quorum to take up any measures that spend money. But Republicans on Wednesday split from the legislation the proposal to curtail union rights, and a special conference committee of state lawmakers approved that bill a short time later.
Wisconsin Senate Democratic leader Mark Miller said Wednesday Democrats will “join the people of Wisconsin in taking back their government,” but he refused to say when.
The lone Democrat present on the conference committee, Rep. Tony Barca, shouted that the surprise meeting was a violation of the state’s open meetings law but Republicans voted over his objections. The Senate then convened within minutes and passed it without discussion or debate.
Spectators in the gallery screamed “You are cowards.”
Before the sudden votes, Democratic Sens. Bob Jauch said if Republicans “chose to ram this bill through in this fashion, it will be to their political peril. They’re changing the rules. They will inflame a very frustrated public.”
Walker praised the legislative action.
“The Senate Democrats have had three weeks to debate this bill and were offered repeated opportunities to come home, which they refused,” he said in a statement.
“In order to move the state forward, I applaud the Legislature’s action today to stand up to the status quo and take a step in the right direction to balance the budget and reform the government,” he said. “The action today will help ensure Wisconsin has a business climate that allows the private sector to create 250,000 new jobs.”
State Senate Democratic Minority Leader Mark Miller issued a statement saying, “Tomorrow we will join the people of Wisconsin in taking back their government.”"
Straight from Florida Tribune: “Taking photographs from the roadside of a sunrise over hay bales near the Suwannee River, horses grazing near Ocala or sunset over citrus groves along the Indian River could land you in jail under a Senate bill filed Monday.
SB 1246 by Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, would make it a first-degree felony to photograph a farm without first obtaining written permission from the owner. A farm is defined as any land “cultivated for the purpose of agricultural production, the raising and breeding of domestic animals or the storage of a commodity.”
Media law experts say the ban would violate freedoms protected in the U. S. Constitution. But Wilton Simpson, a farmer who lives in Norman’s district, said the bill is needed to protect the property rights of farmers and the “intellectual property” involving farm operations.
Simpson, president of Simpson Farms near Dade City, said the law would prevent people from posing as farmworkers so that they can secretly film agricultural operations.
He said he could not name an instance in which that happened. But animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Animal Freedom display undercover videos on their web sites to make their case that livestock farming and meat consumption are cruel.
Jeff Kerr, general counsel for PETA, said the state should be ashamed that such a bill would be introduced.
“Mr. Norman should be filing bills to throw the doors of animal producers wide open to show the public where their food comes from rather than criminalizing those who would show animal cruelty,” he said.
Simpson agreed the bill would make it illegal to photograph a farm from a roadside without written permission. Norman could not be reached for comment.
Judy Dalglish, executive director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said shooting property from a roadside or from the air is legal. The bill “is just flat-out unconstitutional not to mention stupid,” she said.
And she said there are laws already to prosecute trespassing onto property without permission. And if someone poses as a farm employee to shoot undercover video, they can be fired and possibly sued.
“Why pass a law you know will not stand constitutional muster?” Dalglish said.
Simpson said he doesn’t think that “innocent” roadside photography would be prosecuted even if the bill is passed as introduced.
“Farmers are a common-sense people,” he said. “A tourist who stops and takes a picture of cows — I would not imagine any farmer in the state of Florida that cares about that at all.”"
Straight from Fox News: “In the face of Republican calls for Democrats to offer a plan of their own for funding the federal government, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled a $1.1 trillion bill which imposes $6.5 billion in new spending cuts — and then promptly declared both it and the rival House GOP proposal dead on arrival.
“Not to spoil the surprise, but we all know how it will turn out. We know neither will reach the president’s desk as read,” Reid predicted Friday, as he set the Senate up for a Tuesday vote on the House-passed bill to fund the government for the remaining seven months of the federal fiscal year.
“We’ll end up back at square one without consensus, without a budget for the rest of this fiscal year, and without assurances that we can keep the country running,” Reid said. “So, once these votes are behind us, and everyone’s voice is heard, I hope each senator and member of Congress will find renewed motivation to do what we needed to do since the beginning, come together, negotiate in good faith.”
As he also sought a vote on the new Democratic alternative, Reid repeatedly called the House GOP legislation “mean-spirited” and “political,” describing the legislative process there as “a mad rush to see who could do the most sensational amendment.” The GOP proposal, which passed the House, would have cut $61 billion from 2010 spending levels, while the Democrats’ plan calls for $6.5 billion in new cuts, in addition to a $4 billion reduction agreed to in a bipartisan stopgap bill signed Wednesday by the president.
Republican leaders matched Reid’s dismissive rhetoric with disdain of their own.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the $6.5 billion in cuts in Reid’s 352-page bill, first announced Thursday with Vice President Biden’s visit to Capitol Hill for negotiations, “little more than one more proposal to maintain the status quo — to give the appearance of action where there is none. This latest proposal is unacceptable, and it’s indefensible.”
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, clearly on message with McConnell, said, “The White House and congressional Democrats finally announced their position. Unfortunately, it is little more than the status quo, and the status quo is indefensible and unacceptable.”
The Democratic funding bill includes tens of billions of dollars more than the Republican plan in funding for customs and border security, weapons of mass destruction training, nuclear nonproliferation, the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and overseas diplomatic operations, among many other areas. Interestingly, the Army Corps of Engineers, always a highly popular program back home for members, receives more than the president requested.
Calling them “responsible cuts,” Democrats rescinded money from “surplus firefighting funds,” some federal building construction, unallocated funds from a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration seat belt grant program, and unused funds remaining in the national “Cash for Clunkers” program, and made cuts to funding for some expanded transit service.
Democrats continued to tout $51 billion in cuts. However, that merely claims savings from a budget that was never implemented. Democrats did not approve a budget last year when they controlled both house of Congress and instead opted to keep spending at 2010 levels. Reid and White House budget officials are now trying to count money sought by President Obama but never approved as savings. Republicans attempted this, as well, by trying to count their $61 billion in real-time cuts as meeting their campaign promise to cut $100 billion from the budget.
McConnell blasted the Democrats’ math, saying, “They say that this proposal meets us ‘halfway.’ “I won’t get into their tortured justification.”
Lawmakers have until March 18, when the current two-week, stopgap spending plan expires, to find some middle ground between $6.5 billion and $61 billion.”
On November 21, 2010, I was allowed to enter the U.S. through an airport security checkpoint without being x-rayed or touched by a TSA officer. This post explains how.
This past Sunday, I was returning from a trip to Europe. I flew from Paris to Cincinnati, landing in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
As I got off my flight, I did all of the things that are normally requested from U.S. citizens returning from abroad. I filled out the customs declarations, confirmed that I hadn’t set foot on any farmland, and answered questions about the chocolates that I had purchased in Switzerland. While I don’t believe that these questions are necessary, I don’t mind answering them if it means some added security. They aren’t particularly intrusive. My passport was stamped, and I moved through customs a happy citizen returning home.
But wait – here was a second line to wait in.
This new line led to a TSA security checkpoint. You see, it is official TSA policy that people (both citizens and non-citizens alike) from international flights are screened as they enter the airport, despite the fact that they have already flown. Even before the new controversial security measures were put in place, I found this practice annoying. But now, as I looked past the 25 people waiting to get into their own country, I saw it: the dreaded Backscatter imaging machine.
Now, I’ve read a fair amount about the controversy surrounding the new TSA policies. I certainly don’t enjoy being treated like a terrorist in my own country, but I’m also not a die-hard constitutional rights advocate. However, for some reason, I was irked. Maybe it was the video of the 3-year old getting molested, maybe it was the sexual assault victim having to cry her way through getting groped, maybe it was the father watching teenage TSA officers joke about his attractive daughter. Whatever it was, this issue didn’t sit right with me. We shouldn’t be required to do this simply to get into our own country.
So, since I had nobody waiting for me at home and no connecting flight to catch, I had some free time. I decided to test my rights.
After putting all my stuff through the x-ray, I was asked to go through the Backscatter. I politely said that I didn’t want to. The technician quipped to his colleague, “We’ve got an opt-out.” They laughed. He turned back and started to explain.
After he finished, I said, “I understand what the pat-down entails, but I wanted to let you know that I do not give you permission to touch my genitals or the surrounding area. If you do, I will consider it assault.”
He called his manager over, who again informed me of the policy. Throughout this event, this happened quite a few times. After raising my concerns regarding the policy to an officer, they often simply quoted back the policy. For the sake of brevity, I will simply say “Policy restatement.”
I said, “I am aware that it is policy, but I disagree with the policy, and I think that it is unconstitutional. As a U.S. citizen, I have the right to move freely within my country as long as I can demonstrate proof of citizenship and have demonstrated no reasonable cause to be detained.”
Policy restatement. “You have two options – the Backscatter or the pat down. It is your choice, but those are the only ways you can go through security.”
I asked if I could speak to his manager.
“I’m the supervisor here.”
“Do you have a manager?”
“Yes, but he’s very far away at the moment. And he’ll say the same thing I am.” Policy restatement.
At this point, I took out my iPhone, activated the voice recorder, and asked The Supervisor, “Per my constitutional rights, I am not allowed to be detained without reasonable cause for arrest. Now, am I free to go?”
He answered, “If you leave, we will call the APD.”
I asked, “Who is the APD?”
“The Airport Police Department.”
I said, “Actually, that’s probably a good idea. Let’s call them and your manager.”
The Supervisor turned and walked away without saying anything. I stood and waited, chatting to The Technician about how they aren’t allowed to wear radiation badges, even though they work with radiation equipment. He said, “I think I’m a couple steps ahead of you regarding looking out for my own health.”
I stood and waited for 20 minutes. Two cops showed up. Big ones. I admit, I did not want to be handcuffed by these guys.
One cop was older than the other, but they were still clearly partners. Neither of them took the lead on answering my questions, and neither of them told the other what to do. They came over to me and asked me to explain the issue. I first showed them the iPhone. After I explained my position, they restated the policy to me.
I said, “Yes sir. I understand the policy, but I still disagree and I still don’t think that I can be made to do these searches in order to go home. Now am I free to go?”
They didn’t answer.
I repeated the question. “Since you are actual police officers and not simply TSA, I am sure you have had much more training on my rights as a U.S. citizen, so you understand what is at stake here. So, am I free to go? Or am I being detained?”
Young Cop answers, “You aren’t being detained, but you can’t go through there.”
“Isn’t that what detaining is? Preventing me from leaving?”
“You can leave if you want, but it has to be that direction.” He points back towards customs. Young Cop asks, “Why are you doing this?”
I explain that I’m worried that the Backscatter has unproven health risks. And that for all he knows, I might be a sexual assault victim and don’t feel like being touched. I say that the policy is needlessly invasive and it doesn’t provide any added security.
He asks, “But didn’t you go through this when you left on your flight?”
“Yes,” I say, grinning, “But I didn’t want to miss my flight then.”
The cops leave, and I stand around and wait some more. It should be noted that throughout this time, no fewer than 10 TSA officers and technicians are standing around, watching me. I was literally the only one still waiting to go through security.
The cops, The TSA Supervisor, and another guy were standing behind the checkpoint deliberating about something. I explained this to my iPhone and The Supervisor shouted, “Does that thing have video?”
“No sir. Just audio.” I was telling the truth – I’m still on an iPhone 3G.
After a while, Young Cop comes and asks me for my papers. My passport, my boarding pass, my driver’s license, and even a business card. I give him everything except the business card. He told me that he was just gathering information for the police report, which is standard procedure. I complied – I knew that this was indeed standard.
He left, and a Delta Airlines manager comes over and starts talking to me. He is clearly acting as a mediator. He asks what I would consent to, if given my options. I explain that I want the least intrusive possible solution that is required. I say, “I will not do anything that is not explicitly stated on recording as mandatory.” He leaves.
Let me pause and clarify the actors’ moods here, because they will soon start to change:
- The Supervisor: Very standoffish. Sticking to policy, no exceptions.
- The TSA Officials: Mainly amused. Not very concerned otherwise.
- The Cops: Impartial observers and consultants. Possibly a bit frustrated that I’m creating the troubles, but being very professional and respectful regardless.
- The Delta Supervisor: Trying to help me see the light. He doesn’t mind the work – he’s here all day anyway, so he’d rather spend it ensuring that his customer is happy.
After another wait, Old Cop returns, and asks me what I want. I tell him, “I want to go home without going through the Backscatter and without having my genitals touched. Those are my only two conditions. I will strip naked here if that is what it takes, but I don’t want to be touched.”
He offers as an alternative, “What if we were to escort you out with us? It would involve a pat-down, but it would be us doing it instead.”
“Would you touch my balls?”
“I don’t want to touch your – genital region, but my hand might brush against it.”
I clarify, “Well, like I said, I’ll do whatever you say is mandatory. If you tell me that you have to touch my balls—“
“—I said no such thing. You’re putting words in my mouth.”
“OK. I apologize. If you say that a pat-down is mandatory, and that as a condition of that pat-down, I may have my genitals brushed against by your hand, even though you don’t want to, I will do that. But only if you say it is mandatory.”
“I’m not going to say that.”
“OK. So am I free to go?”
“You are free to go in that direction.” He points back towards customs. Then he walks away to commune with the others.
My iPhone is running out of battery, so I take out my laptop, sit in a corner, and plug it in. I have some work to do anyway, so I pull up Excel and start chugging away for about 20 minutes.
This is where the turning point happens.
The cops come back and start talking with me. Again, they are asking why I’m doing it, don’t I have a connection to make, etc. They are acting more curious at this point – no longer trying to find a contradiction in my logic.
I eventually ask what would happen if I got up and left, and just walked through security. They shrugged. “We wouldn’t do anything on our own. We are only acting on behalf of the TSA. They are in charge of this area.”
“So if he told you to arrest me, you would? And if he didn’t, you wouldn’t?”
“That’s right,” Young Cop says.
“OK well then I think it is best if we all talk together as a group now. Can you call them over?”
The Supervisor returns, along with the Delta Manager. The Supervisor is quite visibly frustrated.
I explain, “The police have explained to me that it is your call on whether or not I am being detained. If I walked through that metal detector right now, you would have to ask them to arrest me in order for them to do anything.”
He starts to defer responsibility to the officers. They emphasize that no – they have no issue with me and they are only acting on his behalf. It is his jurisdiction. It is policy. They won’t detain me unless he tells them to.
So I emphasize the iPhone again, and ask,” So, if I were to get up, walk through the metal detector, and not have it go off, would you still have them arrest me?”
The Supervisor answers, “I can’t answer that question. That is no longer an option because you were selected for the Backscatter.”
“Well you can answer the question because it is a yes or no question. If I got up and left, would you have them arrest me?”
“I can’t answer that question.”
The moods have changed. The cops are now frustrated with him because he’s pawning off his decision-making responsibility to them. He’s stopping what is clearly a logical solution to the problem. Meanwhile, the Supervisor is just growing more and more furious with me.
In another deferment of responsibility (which he probably thought was an intimidation factor), “Well then I guess I’m just going to have to call the FSD.”
Unfazed, I ask, “What’s the FSD?”
“The Federal Security Director.” And he walks away.
I can see him talking on the phone to the FSD – a man apparently named Paul – and I can only catch parts of the conversation:
- “No, he’s been perfectly polite…”
- “We tried that…”
- “All he said was … Constitutional rights”
He walks over to Old Cop and hands him the phone. I can hear similar sound bites. They hang up, deliberate some more, and then wait some more.
Meanwhile, I’m typing away on my computer. Answering emails, working on my Excel model – things that I would have done at home regardless.
The Supervisor walks over and stands uncomfortably close to me. After typing for a bit more, I look up. His voice shakes, “I don’t know if I ever introduced myself.” He pulls out his badge. “My name is XXX XXX. Here is my badge. Now, I’ve shown you my credentials.”
Ah – he’s gotten the Miranda talk. I hide my smile.
“Here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to escort you out of the terminal to the public area. You are to stay with me at all times. Do you understand?”
“Will I be touched?”
“I can’t guarantee that, but I am going to escort you out.”
“OK. I will do this. But I will restate that I still do not give you permission to touch my genitals or the surrounding area. If you do, I will still consider it assault.”
And then came the most ridiculous scene of which I’ve ever been a part. I gather my things – jacket, scarf, hat, briefcase, chocolates. We walk over to the staff entrance and he scans his badge to let me through. We walk down the long hallway that led back to the baggage claim area. We skip the escalators and moving walkways. As we walk, there are TSA officials stationed at apparent checkpoints along the route. As we pass them, they form part of the circle that is around me. By the end of the walk, I count 13 TSA officials and 2 uniformed police officers forming a circle around me. We reach the baggage claim area, and everyone stops at the orange line. The Supervisor grunts, “Have a nice day,” and leaves.
In order to enter the USA, I was never touched, I was never “Backscatted,” and I was never metal detected. In the end, it took 2.5 hours, but I proved that it is possible. I’m looking forward to my next flight on Wednesday.”
Orlando Airport Kicks Out The TSA
Straight from Gizmodo: “Responding to outcry about the TSA’s scanning, Orlando’s Sanford Airport has invoked a little-known clause that allows them to replace the TSA with one of five approved third-party security firms, citing “more accountability and better customer service.” Here’s hoping.”
Obama: TSA pat-downs frustrating but necessary
Straight from MSNBC: “LISBON, Portugal — President Barack Obama on Saturday acknowledged some travelers’ “frustrations” with having to go through full-body pat-downs and scans at airports, but he said the enhanced security measures are necessary to keep America safe.
In response to a question at a press conference in Lisbon, where he was attending a NATO summit , the president said that the Transportation Security Administration has been “under enormous pressure” to find better ways to screen for explosives and other dangerous items ever since the attempted 2009 Christmas Day bombing of a U.S. airliner over Detroit. In that case, a passenger with links to an al-Qaida extremist group tried to set off plastic explosives concealed in his underwear.
“I understand people’s frustrations, and what I’ve said to the TSA is that you have to constantly refine and measure whether what we’re doing is the only way to assure the American people’s safety. And you also have to think through are there other ways of doing it that are less intrusive,” Obama said.
“But at this point, TSA in consultation with counterterrorism experts have indicated to me that the procedures that they have been putting in place are the only ones right now that they consider to be effective against the kind of threat that we saw in the Christmas Day bombing.”
Obama acknowledged that as president he does not have to go through pat-downs and other normal security procedures at airports, since he flies on Air Force One.
Some travelers have criticized the pat-downs and full-body scanners at some airports as overly intrusive and humiliating. In one case, a woman who survived breast cancer said she was forced to show her prosthetic breast during a pat-down at an airport in North Carolina .
A loosely organized campaign on the Internet is urging travelers to boycott the scanners, which produce a virtually naked image of the body that can be seen by a screener who is in a different location and doesn’t know the identity of the traveler. The U.S. has nearly 400 of the advanced imaging machines deployed at 70 airports, with plans to expand to 1,000 machines next year. Not all airports have them and not all travelers are selected for scans.
Those who refuse body scans can be forced to undergo physical pat-downs, which could make for long lines during the Thanksgiving holiday travel weekend.
“One of the most frustrating aspects of this fight against terrorism is that it has created a whole security apparatus around us that causes huge inconvenience for all of us,” Obama said.”
TSA Won’t Grope John Boehner
Straight from Gawker: “Shortly after the election, incoming House Speaker John Boehner burnished his common-man cred by pledging to fly commercial, instead of using the private military plane afforded him. Nice. But he’ll still be able to bypass the TSA’s molestation routine.
In case you haven’t heard, airplane passengers are now required to either take naked photographs for the Gizmodo blog to post or be fisted by a TSA employee before boarding an aircraft. Only now, after the Internet has converted this latest annoying security ramp-up into a meme about leaving someone’s “junk” alone, are more Americans realizing that the panicky way we’ve responded to every terrorist scare since 9/11 has been pathetic and unsustainable.
But where were we again? Oh yes: John Boehner doesn’t have to get photographed naked or fisted before boarding airplanes:
As he left Washington on Friday, Mr. Boehner headed across the Potomac River to Reagan National Airport, which was bustling with afternoon travelers. But there was no waiting in line for Mr. Boehner, who was escorted around the metal detectors and body scanners, and taken directly to the gate.
Mr. Boehner, who was wearing a casual yellow sweater and tan slacks, carried his own bags and smiled pleasantly at passengers who were leaving the security checkpoint inside the airport terminal. It was unclear whether any passengers waiting in the security line, including Representative Allen Boyd, a Florida Democrat who lost his re-election bid, saw Mr. Boehner.
Why do they assume that John Boehner isn’t a terrorist? If you have rich orange skin, shouldn’t that be rounded up to “brown,” which automatically requires 20 minutes of violent fisting? What a world.”
Cancer Survivor Says She Was Forced to Remove Prosthetic Breast During Pat-Down
Straight from Fox News: “A cancer survivor says she was forced to show her prosthetic breast during a pat-down at an airport in North Carolina.
Cathy Bossi, a Charlotte-area flight attendant, told WBTV, a local CBS affiliate, that in August, two female Transportation Security Administration agents took her to a private room for what she calls an aggressive pat-down.
They stopped when they got around to feeling her right breast, the one where she’d had surgery, said Bossi, a three-year breast cancer survivor.
“She put her full hand on my breast and said, ‘What is this?’” Bossi told the station. “And I said, ‘It’s my prosthesis because I’ve had breast cancer.’ And she said, ‘Well you’ll need to show me that.’”
Bossi said she removed the prosthetic breast from her bra.
“I did not take the name of the person at the time because it was just so horrific of an experience, I couldn’t believe someone had done that to me,” she said. “I’m a flight attendant. I was just trying to get to work.”
A TSA spokesperson told the station that agents aren’t supposed to remove any prosthetics but are allowed to ask to see and touch any passenger’s prosthetic. The agency said it will review the matter.
Bossi’s story is just one of many fueling a backlash against passenger pat-downs and high-tech scanners that produce digital images of the body’s contours. Florida Rep. John Mica is pushing for airports to consider ditching TSA agents altogether in favor of private contractors. Some travelers are using the Internet to organize protests aimed at the busy travel days surrounding Thanksgiving next week.”
Obama Says He Understands Ire Over Airport Screenings
Straight from Fox News: “President Barack Obama has asked security officials whether there’s a less intrusive way to screen U.S. airline passengers than the pat-downs and body scans causing a holiday-season uproar.
For now, they’ve told him there isn’t one, the president said Saturday in response to a question at the NATO summit in Lisbon.
“I understand people’s frustrations,” Obama said, while acknowledging that he’s never had to undergo the stepped-up screening methods.
Passengers at some U.S. airports must pass through full-body scanners that produce a virtually naked image. If travelers refuse, they can be forced to undergo time-consuming fingertip examinations, including of clothed genital areas and breasts, by inspectors of the same sex as the passenger.
Obama said he’s told the U.S. Transportation Security Administration: “You have to constantly refine and measure whether what we’re doing is the only way to assure the American people’s safety. And you also have to think through, are there ways of doing it that are less intrusive.”
At this point, that agency and counterterrorism experts have told him that the current procedures are the only ones that they think can effectively guard against threats such as last year’s attempted Christmas-day bombing. A Nigerian man is accused of trying to set off a bomb hidden in his underwear aboard a flight from Amsterdam with nearly 300 people aboard.
Obama said that in weekly meetings with his counterterrorism team, “I’m constantly asking them whether is what we’re doing absolutely necessary, have we thought it through, are there other ways of accomplishing it that meet the same objectives.”
For now it sounds like there aren’t, and travelers will face potential pat-downs and scans.
“One of the most frustrating aspects of this fight against terrorism is that it has created a whole security apparatus around us that causes huge inconvenience for all of us,” Obama said.
The new scans show naked images of the passenger’s body, without the face, to a screener who is in a different location and does not know the identity of the traveler. The U.S. has nearly 400 of the advanced imaging machines deployed at 70 airports, expanding to 1,000 machines next year. So not all airports have them and not all travelers are selected for scans.
The hands-on searches are used for passengers who don’t want those scans or when something suspicious shows in screening, or on rare occasions, randomly.”
California Man Tells TSA, Don’t ‘Touch My Junk’
Straight from AOLNews: “(Nov. 15) — A California man got thrown out of San Diego’s airport when he refused a revealing full-body scan and then an alternative pat-down, telling a Transportation Security Agent, “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.”
John Tyner, 31, said he was told he could face a civil lawsuit and a $10,000 fine for leaving the screening area before the security check was complete, according to news reports and his blog.
Tyner captured his dust-up with TSA officials in cell phone recordings now going viral, highlighting the issue of privacy and the debate over the latest screening technology.
“It seems like it struck a chord,” Tyner, a software engineer from Oceanside, Calif., told the North County Times. “I think people are tired of having their rights stripped away, especially in the face of not very improved security.”
Tyner’s story began Saturday morning when he went to San Diego International Airport for a flight to South Dakota for a pheasant-hunting trip with his father-in-law, according to The San Diego-Union-Tribune.
At first, he balked at submitting to a full-body scan, according to his blog and news reports. He told the newspaper he was surprised to learn the airport had the machines because the airport’s website said it did not.
He opted for the metal detector and basic pat-down, but refused the latter after learning it involved a “groin check.”
“I looked him straight in the eye and said, “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested,” he wrote on his blog.
More agents arrived, and one told Tyner he could be fined and subject to a lawsuit if he didn’t complete the screening, the North County Times said.
His cell phone video, which captured just the audio, received more 179,000 YouTube hits early today.
“The whole thing just seemed ridiculous. … I don’t intend to fly until these machines go away,” he told CNN.
TSA Administrator John Pistole defended the system today, saying that all passengers want to know that their fellow fliers have been properly screened for weapons like box cutters, liquid explosives or a shoe or underwear bomb.
“Everybody wants the best possible security,” Pistole said on NBC’s “Today” show. “The question is, What’s that blend or balance, if you will, between security, safety and privacy? While we remain sensitive to people with those concerns, the system we have set up addresses those concerns and provides the best possible security.”"
Question the TSA at your own Risk
Straight from WeWon’tFly: “The TSA chose Meg McLain for special screening. They wanted her to go through the new porno-scanners. When she opted out, TSA (Transportation Security Administration of the Department of Homeland Security, US federal government) agents raised an enormous ruckus. When she asked some question about what they planned to do to her, they flipped out. TSA agents yelled at her, handcuffed her to a chair, ripped up her ticket, called in 12 local Miami cops and finally escorted her out of the airport. Listen to her story as she told it on radio show Free Talk Live last night. Things are truly getting scary.
For best results, listen to the audio on YouTube“
Flight attendants union upset over new pat-down procedures
Straight from ABC15.com: “A Washington, D.C. resident has formed a website critical of TSA pat-down procedures, calling on people to “opt out” on one of the busiest travel days of the nation.
Brian Sodergren designed optoutday.com in an effort to get people to experience the new TSA pat-down procedures.
“Getting a plane ticket doesn’t mean you’re consenting to someone being able to look under your clothes or feel your genitals,” said Sodergren during a phone interview with ABC15.
Sodergren wants passengers, pilots and flight attendants to “opt-out” of the X-ray body scanners and go through the pat down procedure.
“It’s too much, I don’t want my wife or my child going through the pat-downs and have their genitals touched, people need to understand what’s going on,” said Sodergren.
Sodergren, a healthcare professional who says he flies often for business, is calling for passengers to opt for the pat-down procedure on November 24, 2010, which is the day before Thanksgiving and one of the busiest travel days of the year.
Sodergren says he’s not attempting to overwhelm the security checkpoints by urging people to experience the procedure.
“I have no intention to or no desire to slow people down or the system down or make people miss their flights,” said Sodergren. “I just want people to know the body scanners and especially pat-downs are just way too much, we have a right to privacy.”
The unveiling of the website comes as a flight attendants union with 2,000 members is upset over what it calls “invasive pat-downs” recently implemented by the TSA.
“We’re getting calls daily about peoples’ experiences, our members are concerned,” said Deborah Volpe, Vice President of the Association of Flight Attendants Local 66.
Volpe confirmed that the union is offering advice to its flight attendants, who mostly work for Tempe-based USAirways, involving the security moves.
According to a union email obtained by ABC15, it tells flight attendants if they opt out of using the body scanner through security and are required to undergo a pat-down to ask the pat-down be conducted in a private area with a witness.
“We don’t want them in uniform going through this enhanced screening where their private areas are being touched in public,” said Volpe. “They actually make contact with the genital area.”
Some passengers have told ABC15 they’ve already encountered flight delays due to crew members having problems with TSA employees.
“It (delay) was over three hours when they finally found a crew member to take her place,” said Les Johnson who says his Charlotte bound flight was delayed. “She (flight attendant) felt that she was groped and supposedly filed a claim.”
According to Volpe, complaints from flight attendants are expected to continue to increase and said some flight attendants are planning to file lawsuits.
A flight attendant who contacted ABC15, and asked not to be named because they are not authorized to be speak about the issue without union approval, says there have been more complaints from flight attendants filed Wednesday morning.
“They’ve already contacted the ACLU,” said Volpe when referring to some members of the union. “We don’t know if somebody may have had an experience with a sexual assault and its (pat-down) going to drudge up some bad memories.”
Volpe made it clear the union is not against security.
“Security is the most important aspect, our offices were used as murder weapons,” said Volpe. “Keep in mind we undergo extensive background checks and we fly quite often.”
Volpe said she has been a flight attendant for nearly 25 years and she and other union leaders are pushing for a “crew pass” system that would allow flight attendants and pilots to essentially by-pass security.
“We don’t want to delay anyone, we just feel this pat-down is a little much.”"
Straight from Dvorak Uncensored: “Remember when the US was touted as the shining example of freedom to the rest of the world? Yeah, not so much anymore.
Freedom of the press has declined for the eighth year in a row, according to Freedom House’s annual report. And while the media has focused on the lack of media freedoms in such places as China and Venezuela, they’ve virtually ignored the U.S. position – No. 24 (PDF).
And following in the footsteps of the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration seems intent on making the media less free.”