NO War on Syria: Lot’s of War Talk Some Facts & Opinion from David Swanson

Hello Citizens

Fr:  Buzz Davis, member, Veterans for Peace, 608-239-5354 cell#

Washington and the media is full of war talk.  You have to THINK and avoid having your mind flipped from story to story like a burger at McDonalds.

I suggest you print this off and read it with coffee and then take the actions David Swanson suggests.  His article is below and mine is attached.

The Big Questions:

1.  Are you ready to send your relatives to help fight in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, or any of the other wars the US government is involved in?

2.  Are YOU ready to suit up and fight in these lands yourself?

I am not.  I am a member of Veterans for Peace and we believe we have to fight harder for peace than we do for war.  But politicians think war is easy — because they seldom go to war themselves.

Please remember a couple of facts when you listen to the politicians talk about war and teaching leaders or countries a lesson.

1.  There is a lot of lying.  2.  There is a lot of shading the truth.  3.  The 2014 November elections are coming up in 15 months and all the House and 1/3 of the Senate will be up for election.  4.  Most of the politicians talk with one eye and their mind on that Nov. election.

As powerful as the US military weapons are, they are not much good for a lot we should be doing to help build a better world.  We are the richest nation the world has ever seen and yet we kill and kill and kill all in the name of “helping” people and “preventing” suffering.

My op ed, which is running on the Cap Times electronic newspaper, is attached and it may also run in the Wed. print edition.

Do you know that since 2001 when 9-11 occurred, that nearly 469,000 people have died in the US in motor vehicle accidents (not counting those who have died in 2013)?

Do you know that the National Highway Safety Administration estimates that nearly 40% of all highway deaths occurred in accidents where the consumption of alcohol was involved?

Is alcohol a chemical of mass destruction?  You know it is.

Below is just one person killed in a vehicle accident.  What could she have done with her life?  We will never know.

And there are a half million people standing behind her who we will never know what they could have done with their lives.

Marina Keegan and an estimated 34,079 other people died on America’s roads in 2012 — a 5.3 percent increase over 2011.

Have Mr. Obama or Congressional leaders drawn a red line in the sand against alcohol weapon producers and users.  Have they called for hundreds of billions of dollars be spent per year on reducing such death, injuries and destruction in our communities?

The answer is no.  It is because they do not really care.  If they did they would change our national priorities in this world.

Below is author and blogger David Swanson’s article on Syria.

Thank you!

Buzz Davis, member Veterans for Peace, Stoughton, WI 608-239-5354

Caveman Credibility and its Costs

By David Swanson

http://warisacrime.org/content/caveman-credibility-and-its-costs

Sending a bunch of $3 million missiles into Syria to blow stuff up will kill a great many men, women, and children directly.  It will also kill a great many people indirectly, as violence escalates in response — an established pattern recognized even by the war-promoting Washington Post.

Refugees are fleeing Syria in greater numbers as a result of the U.S. government’s threat to send in missiles.  The refugees have all sorts of opinions of their government, but by many accounts they overwhelmingly oppose foreign missile strikes — a position on which they agree with a large majority in the United States.

Not only is President Obama’s proposal guaranteed to make things worse, but it risks making things dramatically worse, with threats of retaliation now coming from Syria, Iran, and Russia.  The U.S. media is already describing the proposed missile strikes as “retaliatory,” even though the United States hasn’t been attacked.  Imagine what the pressure will be in Washington to actually retaliate if violence leads, as it so often does, to more violence.  Imagine the enthusiasm for a broader war, in Washington and Jerusalem, if Iran retaliates.  Risking a major war, no matter how slim you think the chance is, ought to be done only for some incredibly important reason.

The White House doesn’t have one.  President Obama’s draft resolution for Congress reads, in part:

“Whereas, the objective of the United States’ use of military force in connection with this authorization should be to deter, disrupt, prevent, and degrade the potential for, future uses of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction;

“Whereas, the conflict in Syria will only be resolved through a negotiated political settlement, and Congress calls on all parties to the conflict in Syria to participate urgently and constructively in the Geneva process;”

In other words, the missiles have nothing to do with ending the war.  The war will only end through peace negotiations.  All parties should “urgently” and “constructively” pursue that process.  And yet, here come the missiles!

Missile strikes will enrage the Syrian government and encourage the opposition.  Both sides will fight more fiercely.  Both sides will be more seriously tempted to use any weapons in their arsenals.  Missiles will prolong and escalate the war.

Steps toward ending the war could include: halting CIA and other military assistance; pressuring Russia and Iran, on one side, and Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf states on the other, to stop arming the war; and bringing both sides to a peace conference in Geneva.  Is the United States urgently and constructively taking these steps?  Of course not.

What about basic humanitarian aid?  The U.S. government is just not interested in providing it, not on anything remotely approaching the scale of the weaponry flowing into the war.

President Obama’s stated objective is to deter the future use of chemical weapons.  But missiles may encourage that very thing by escalating the war.  There are other steps that could be used to reduce the future use of chemical weapons.  For one thing, the United States could stop using, developing, and stock-piling chemical weapons.  Most nations do not do so.  The White House and the U.S. media have begun saying that Syria holds the biggest chemical weapons supply “in the Middle East,” rather than “in the world,” as President Obama said last week.  The world-record-holder is the U.S. government.

The U.S. government has admitted to using white phosphorous and new types of napalm as weapons against Iraqis.  The best way to discourage that behavior is not to bomb Washington.

The U.S. government has used chemical weapons against “its own people” (always far more outrageous in the eyes of the U.S. media than killing someone else’s people) from the military’s assault on veterans in the Bonus Army to the FBI’s assault on a religious cult in Waco, Texas. The best way to discourage this behavior is not to bomb Washington.

The U.S. could also stop supporting the use of chemical weapons by certain nations, including Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iranians.  The U.S. could sign onto and support the International Criminal Court.  And the U.S. could abandon its role as top weapons supplier to the world and leading war-maker on earth.  Less war means less use of all weapons, including various internationally sanctioned weapons that the United States both uses and exports, such as cluster bombs and depleted uranium.

Obama’s intention to “disrupt,” “prevent,” and “degrade” can be taken seriously only at the risk of much higher casualties, as sending missiles into supplies of chemical weapons is extremely risky.

CREDIBILITY: LA COSA NOSTRA

The purpose of missile strikes, according to the corporate U.S. media is, of course, not the reduction of chemical weapons use, but the maintenance of “credibility.”

We don’t all teach our children that when they disagree with another child on the playground they must either murder that child or lose their credibility.  But our televisions and newspapers feed that type of message to us nonetheless, through news about the next possible war.  Julie Pace of the Associated Press warns:

“For more than a week, the White House had been barreling toward imminent military action against Syria. But President Barack Obama’s abrupt decision to instead ask Congress for permission left him with a high-risk gamble that could devastate his credibility if no action is ultimately taken in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack that crossed his own ‘red line’.”

And here I would have thought that bombing countries in the name of “democracy” against the will of an overwhelming majority at home was costing our government what little credibility it might have had.  Didn’t Britain gain in credibility when its Parliament represented its people and said “No” to war on Syria?  Doesn’t that step do more for the image of democracy in Western Asia than a decade of destabilizing Iraq has done?  Couldn’t the U.S. government do more for democracy by leaving Syria alone and dropping its support for brutal governments in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, etc.?

THE LAW PROBLEM

And shouldn’t a credible enforcer of the rule of law obey the law?  Under no possible conception is it legal for the United States to send missiles into Syria.  The Kellogg-Briand Pact bans any such action.  The most common excuse for ignoring that ban is the U.N. Charter and its loopholes for wars (wars that are defensive or U.N.-authorized).  A U.S. attack on Syria is not defensive, and the White House isn’t seriously pretending it is.  A U.S. attack on Syria is not U.N. authorized, and the White House isn’t pretending it is or pursuing such authorization in any way.  Other U.S. wars carried out in violation of these laws have put up a pretense of internationalism by cajoling some other countries to help out in minimal ways.  In this case, that isn’t happening.  President Obama is proposing to uphold international norms through an action that the international community of nations is against.  France looks like the only possible, and at this point unlikely, partner — not counting al Qaeda, of course.

A president also cannot go to war without Congress.  So, it is encouraging that President Obama has now suggested he will try to rise to the standard of George W. Bush and bother to lie to Congress before launching a war.  But if Congress were to say yes, the war would remain illegal under both the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact.  And if Congress were to say no, President Obama has indicated that he might just launch the war anyway.

If you look at the resolution that Obama has proposed that Congress pass, it doesn’t grant permission for a specific limited missile strike on a particular country at a particular time, but for limitless warfare, as long as some connection can be made to weapons of mass destruction in the Syrian conflict.  The White House has made clear that it believes this will add exactly nothing to its powers, as it already possesses open-ended authorizations for war in the never-repealed Afghanistan and Iraq authorizations, which themselves added exactly nothing to White House war powers, because the president is given total war power through the Constitution in invisible ink that only the White House can see.

Already, there are moves in Congress to re-write Obama’s draft, in order to — in fact — give him limited powers to strike Syria.  But those limited powers will allow exactly the disastrous action discussed above.  And there is no reason to believe the limitation will hold.  President Obama used a limited U.N. resolution to do things it never authorized in Libya.  Missiles into Syria that provoke a response from Iran will provoke screams for blood out of Congress and the White House, and all laws be damned.

THE LYING PROBLEM

All of the above remains the same whether the Syrian government used chemical weapons or not.  The way to end a war is to arrange a cease-fire, de-escalate, disarm, cool tensions, and start talking.  Pouring gasoline on a fire doesn’t put it out.  The way to uphold the rule of law is by consistent example and through prosecutions by courts, not vigilantism.  This remains the case whether the Syrian government has done what President Obama claims or not.

It is important, however, that so few people around the world and in the United States are willing to take Obama’s word for it.  If Obama’s goal is to “send a message,” but most people in the Middle East disagree with him on the facts, what kind of message will he possibly be sending?  That is, even if his claims happen to be true, what good is that if nobody believes U.S. war justifications anymore?

The super-healthy skepticism that has now been created is not all attributable to Iraq.  The world has been flooded with false claims from the U.S. government during the wars on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and even Syria, as well as during the drone wars.  Past claims that the Syrian government used chemical weapons have fallen flat.  And the current claims come packages in lies, including lies about the Syrian government’s willingness to allow U.N. inspections, and the speed with which it allowed them.  The U.S. government discouraged the use of inspectors, seeking to rush into war on the basis of its own assertions.  The White House has produced a dodgy dossier lacking in hard evidence. Analysts see little basis for confidence in White House claims.  Insiders are risking “espionage!” accusations to voice their doubts.

And should it be true that someone in the Syrian military used chemical weapons, the White House clearly has nothing but its own suspicions and desires to suggest that the order came from the top, rather than from some rogue officer with an interest in provoking an attack.  Circumstantial evidence, of course, makes that more likely, given the bizarre circumstance of the incident occurring less than 10 miles from the U.N. inspectors’ hotel on the day they arrived.

Maybe it’s just too difficult to hold a proper investigation during a war.  If so, that is not something to be deeply regretted.  Obama’s proposed response would be disastrous.  Our priority should be avoiding it and ending the war.  Creating a better climate for criminal investigations is just one more reason to bring the war to an end.

THE MILITARY PROBLEM

While hawks and profiteers within and without the U.S. military favor bombing Syria and just about any other military action one might propose, many are resisting.  They include the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and numerous officials risking Edward Snowden / Chelsea Manning treatment by talking to the Washington Post, and others to the New York Times.  The military does not clearly understand its new proposed role as punisher of a crime that it itself regularly commits, and it does not share in Obama’s claimed confidence that a limited action will remain limited.

THE CONGRESS PROBLEM

House Speaker John Boehner asked President Obama these as-yet-mostly-unanswered questions:

·  What standard did the Administration use to determine that this scope of chemical weapons use warrants potential military action?

·  Does the Administration consider such a response to be precedent-setting, should further humanitarian atrocities occur?

·  What result is the Administration seeking from its response?

·  What is the intended effect of the potential military strikes?

·  If potential strikes do not have the intended effect, will further strikes be conducted?

·  Would the sole purpose of a potential strike be to send a warning to the Assad regime about the use of chemical weapons? Or would a potential strike be intended to help shift the security momentum away from the regime and toward the opposition?

In fact, the White House has been clear that it has no intention to shift momentum in the war.

·  If it remains unclear whether the strikes compel the Assad regime to renounce and stop the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, or if President Assad escalates their usage, will the Administration contemplate escalatory military action?

·  Will your Administration conduct strikes if chemical weapons are utilized on a smaller scale?

·  Would you consider using the United States military to respond to situations or scenarios that do not directly involve the use or transfer of chemical weapons?

·  Assuming the targets of potential military strikes are restricted to the Assad inner circle and military leadership, does the Administration have contingency plans in case the strikes disrupt or throw into confusion the command and control of the regime’s weapons stocks?

·  Does the Administration have contingency plans if the momentum does shift away from the regime but toward terrorist organizations fighting to gain and maintain control of territory?

·  Does the Administration have contingency plans to deter or respond should Assad retaliate against U.S. interests or allies in the region?

·  Does the Administration have contingency plans should the strikes implicate foreign power interests, such as Iran or Russia?

In fact, the White House is claiming that none of these disasters will occur.  But the Speaker is clearly well aware that they might.

·  Does the Administration intend to submit a supplemental appropriations request to Congress, should the scope and duration of the potential military strikes exceed the initial planning?

The proposed limited strikes, using Raytheon’s $3-million Tomahawk missiles (tastefully named for a weapon of a people the U.S. military ethnically cleansed) is expected to cost many millions and possibly $1 billion, should nothing go wrong.  That money, spent on aid for victims of this war, rather than on escalating the violence, could save a large number of lives.  Failure to so spend it is an immoral act.

TAKING ACTION

Over 40,000 people already chose to click here to tell Congress and the president not to attack Syria.

Already it’s making a difference. Our actions so far have helped compel President Obama to seek Congressional authorization before any attack.

Now we have a week to work with. We start with a majority of the public on our side. We have to hold off a flood of pro-war propaganda, and we have to compel Congress to represent us. And we can do this.

The first step is to click here and add your voice.

Second, please send this to everyone you think might add their voice as well.

Third, organize locally to pressure your Congress member and senators, while they are in their districts and states this week, to commit to voting “No” on a U.S. attack on Syria.

We who reject arguments for war are a majority now. We are a majority in Britain, where Parliament has already voted “No.” We are a majority in Germany, which will not take part. We are a majority in France, where Parliament will be heard from soon. And we are a majority in the United States. Let Congress hear from you now!

The terrible and widespread killing in Syria will become even more terrible and more widespread if the U.S. military launches an attack. The White House has no proposal to win a war, only to inject greater violence into a war, prolonging and escalating it.

Contrary to White House claims, Congress cannot authorize war and support a peace process at the same time. Escalating the violence will block, rather than facilitate, peace. Congress is going to have to choose.

Albert Camus summarized the choice now before us: “In such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, not to be on the side of the executioners.”

Click here to oppose a military attack on Syria, and to urge Congress and the president instead to work for a ceasefire, to pressure Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, and Turkey, to halt the flow of weapons, and to pressure Russia and Iran to do the same.

Starting September 9th, if you can, be in Washington, D.C., to prevent this war.

David Swanson’s books include “War Is A Lie.” He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

Below is the resolution Pres. Obama has sent to Congress.  Buzz Davis.

Obama Proposes to Bomb Syria While “Supporting” a Peace Process

By davidswanson – Posted on 01 September 2013

Obama to Congress:

Whereas, on August 21, 2013, the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria, killing more than 1,000 innocent Syrians;

Whereas these flagrant actions were in violation of international norms and the laws of war;

Whereas the United States and 188 other countries comprising 98 percent of the world’s population are parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling or use of chemical weapons;

Whereas, in the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003, Congress found that Syria’s acquisition of weapons of mass destruction threatens the security of the Middle East and the national security interests of the United States;

Whereas the United Nations Security Council, in Resolution 1540 (2004), affirmed that the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons constitutes a threat to international peace and security;

Whereas, the objective of the United States’ use of military force in connection with this authorization should be to deter, disrupt, prevent, and degrade the potential for, future uses of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction;

Whereas, the conflict in Syria will only be resolved through a negotiated political settlement, and Congress calls on all parties to the conflict in Syria to participate urgently and constructively in the Geneva process; and

Whereas, unified action by the legislative and executive branches will send a clear signal of American resolve.

SEC. ___ AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES

(a) Authorization. — The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in the conflict in Syria in order to —

(1) prevent or deter the use or proliferation (including the transfer to terrorist groups or other state or non-state actors), within, to or from Syria, of any weapons of mass destruction, including chemical or biological weapons or components of or materials used in such weapons; or

(2) protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons.

(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements. —

(1) Specific Statutory Authorization. — Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.

(2) Applicability of other requirements. — Nothing in this joint resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.

BuzzDavisCapTimesNoWaronSyrian-Support.docx

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Published in: on September 2, 2013 at 5:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Call centre brings in prison labour at £3/day, fires regular workers – Boing Boing

Again this is how US corporations will become competitive in the global labor market.

Oh, and who is it that pays for the incarceration of this cheap labor? The rest of us.

Call centre brings in prison labour at £3/day, fires regular workers – Boing Boing.

Here’s the kicker: there used to be such things as Debtors Prisons. Couldn’t pay your debts, you got locked up. (Because that won’t put you any further in debt.) They were abolished not that long ago.

They’re on their way back.

“Voluntary” Work Program Run in Private Detention Centers Pays Detained Immigrants $1 a Day

Sure, now people are starting to take notice.

If you thought we had made great strides in getting rid of slave labor, yes, we have.

If you weren’t aware that the oligarchy has been making great strides in reinstituting it, well, that’s by design.

How do you get around paying workers below minimum wage, legally? When many don’t have work permits?

This is how.

“Voluntary” Work Program Run in Private Detention Centers Pays Detained Immigrants $1 a Day.

Published in: on July 27, 2012 at 8:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Oh, the Terror(ism)!

What follows is a reply to another blog post here. This reply was posted in the comments.
———-

Should we argue semantics? Get all hung up on the “true” meanings of words? Yes. It’s why we have them.

It’s why Charles Manson was a mass-murderer. Son of Sam a serial killer. Why guys who get tired of delivering the mail “go postal.”

We have so many words to describe things, you really need to look at why.

There are definitely double standards, which I think was the point of this post.

When the Ft. Hood shootings happened, when it became public knowledge that the shooter’s last name was Hassan, immediately the media was filled with “was this an act of terrorism?” His shouting, “glory to god” (I believe the translation of Allah Akbar) didn’t help matters.

Did anyone call the VA Tech shooter a terrorist? He wasn’t white. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t born here, either.

There have been other school shootings, since Columbine, and since 9-11 – they are sadly almost cliche. How many of them were labeled “terrorism?”

I’ll also point out that when that small private plane crashed into an apartment building in Manhattan (it killed a baseball player – I’m too lazy to look up details), “terrorism” was the initial, unqualified, panicked response, as people there are still a bit edgy about planes flying into buildings. (turned out someone just fucked up)

People who protested the last presidential administration were labeled “terrorists,” or at the very least terrorist sympathizers. What terror did they instill – in anyone other than elected officials?

The riots in LA after the Rodney King verdict – terrorism? Or rioting?

We have violence. We have crime. We have violent crime. We also, now, have legally defined “hate crimes.” Beating up someone for being gay – terrorism? I know for a fact a lot of homosexuals who might otherwise come out to their communities don’t for fear of physical assault, among other things. They live in constant fear.

All bigots are terrorists? The KKK certainly did a lot to instill fear in black communities. There are, sadly, very many white-supremacist groups. They are organized. They have a political and social agenda. They use violence and fear of more violence to convey their message. Perhaps their time has come to be labeled appropriately?

Violence directed (rightly or no) against a government office – terrorism? With what message? “We’re going to resist paying more taxes!” or was it, “I’m destroying everything and I’m taking you with me!”

At risk of going off on a tangent, do I think taxes are fair? The way they’re currently levied, no. The tax burden is ridiculously upside down in this country. But I do believe in taxation. We all live in a community, a society, and derive a benefit from that, and we all need to contribute to that to make it work for all of us. I like roads. I like schools. I like police and fire departments. I believe those who derive the largest benefit should contribute the largest amount. That would be the corporations that have judicial and legislative systems that create and enforce laws for their benefit.

The clerk, who wanted a secure job with a pension, checking to see if your returns were filled out properly, is not evil incarnate (typically) and does not deserve to be murdered.

If you attend an organized protest of the wars in Afghanistan, you can, under the PATRIOT act, be grabbed up off the street, held as an “enemy combatant,” without bail, without advice of an attorney, subjected to “enhanced interrogation” such as water boarding, even though you’re a US citizen, all without being charged with anything other than being a suspected “terrorist.”

A guy flying a plane into an IRS building in a fit of destructive, violent, homicidal rage? I wouldn’t be too quick to apply the term “terrorist” to him. Throwing labels around like that and some of them might bounce back and stick.

Well just pound me in the ass and call me fish

Homemade shiv not included.

Seriously. Is this what you want your kids playing with (rated T, 13+)?

I sometimes think the various “Dope Wars” and “Mafia” games on Facebook, and certainly the likes of “Grand Theft Auto” are in bad taste (scoring points for engaging in criminal activity), but is this any better? I don’t know if they’re related to all the other “tycoon” games out there (Railway Tycoon, et al.) but this is going too far.

Or is it?

From the game description: “Private prisons have become the new growth industry.” Unfortunately, that’s true. And herein is the underlying problem. The description goes on: “You will construct and run an efficient rehabilitation facility with nothing but money on your mind.” [emphasis added]

You are clearly not concerned with “rehabilitation” when there’s “nothing but money on your mind.”

News flash, folks: this is not a game – this is currently going on in this country in the real world. The US ranks 1st in the world in per capita prison population. That is, we put more of our citizens behind bars than any other modern nation. Why? Because we’re inherently so bad? Because we’re so much better than the rest of the world at fighting crime? Or because it’s in the financial interests of a select few?

We’re building prisons at a frightening rate – and still the ones we have are grossly overcrowded. We have a drug policy that puts teens in the hole until they’re middle aged for having the audacity to get high. I could go on. I’ll only mention tangentially the conspiracy theory about the plans to lock up large segments of the US population – like we did to the Japanese American citizens during the onset of WWII – during an imminently anticipated “civil unrest.” Good thing we don’t protest any more.

[CD-ROM Game – PRISON TYCOON.]

Published in: on December 8, 2009 at 2:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Air Fair 3: Return to the Ticket Counter

How was flying again? In a word: AAAAUUUUGGGGHHHH!!!!!

That’s not a word? How about this word: motherfucker.

Technically two words, but Merriam Webster says it’s one, defining it as a “generalized term of abuse.”

To give you an idea, I started writing this before most of it happened. The more I typed, it seemed the worse it got.

Due to time constraints, I can’t be so free with the airline or price this time. There’s not a whole lot that doesn’t leave too early the day before (the latest was at 7, I was working until 10) or arrive too late in the day the next day. A lot of those not only left obscenely early – 6-7 am – but had up to 4(!) hour layovers. (Flying due east to Wisconsin? You won’t mind a 3-hour stop in Georgia – because it’s on the way. You can walk around outside, in your winter coat.)

Have you ever flown before? On a plane? Ever watch with irritated bemusement when they start boarding, calling first class and people with special needs (same thing, I know), and some twitchy fuckers with refrigerator dollies for luggage crowd around the gate, like it’s the Wyoming land rush and someone’s suddenly going to yell, “go!” and they can race for the best seat – a seat which was assigned before they go there. They crowd right up to the rope, with postures that scream, “me? me now? now? me?” because they might call the rows in alphabetical instead of numerical order.

This may actually be the case now. See, I figured I’d be smart this time (ha!) and not opt for the middle seat near the front, nor over the wing, next to the engine. No, I grabbed the completely empty (at the time) row at the back of the plane (a little ways from the lavatory, of course). I should be in the first group to board. I print out my boarding passes, which have a big number “4” on them.

Apparently United – whom I’ve now flown for the last time (or at least attempted to, read on) – shuffles everybody around, and boards by these numbers which, as far as I could tell, don’t correspond to anything. People who boarded with the 1’s were sitting near me, and some other 4’s were sitting near the front. If it works for them, so be it. Just bolloxes up my cunning plan.

I can still hear George Carlin voicing over my son’s Thomas the Tank Engine DVD’s: “Then, there was trouble.”

Seems there’s a hydraulic problem with one of the wings. (Don’t hydraulics have to do with water? If we’re flying in the air, why is this a problem?) By 6:30 (6 am departure, been there since 5, up since 3:30) I’m waiting in the (now) long line at the gate, trying to get rebooked so I can make it to Chez Cheese before my press runs, if not my connecting flight.

Verizon is connecting me to United customer (dis)service – or so they say, before hanging up on me. I manage to get through, and button mash my way to an agent. Let’s just say that my company’s java-laiden flight booker in my old browser on my older system works faster than this guy. Turns out there’s not so many flights – at least on United

He tells me the next flight out doesn’t leave until 8:30. The next connecting flight gets me in at 2:30 – which, accounting for time zones is really 3:30. There were other flights, direct or connecting through other cities that would have gotten me there earlier, but they all leave around 6, so they’re gone now. How terribly efficient.

When I tell him to book me a flight on another airline, he tells me, “that’s not possible.” Never mind that I can hear the gate agent booking people on Continental.

The pilot had said he didn’t expect the issue to be solved for at least another 45 minutes at the earliest, and that it didn’t look good. Chucklehead on the phone says, “it looks here like your flight is scheduled to depart at 7:15 (riiiight), so perhaps that’s your best bet.” I wouldn’t make my scheduled connection, but I’m booked on the flight after, which is still early enough.

Are there still seats available on the 8:30? Oh, yes, he says, plenty of seats. “Plenty” of seats? Or “a lot” of seats? “I’m showing a lot of seats still open.” I figure I can rebook if I have to if the plane isn’t fixed presently.

…which, of course, is as soon as I get off the phone. Everyone get your stuff, we’re deplaning now. (and now I have Hervé Villechaize in my head again.)

Oh, and that 8:30? Now sold out.

Don’t feel sorry for me. There were a lot of kids on this plane. The mere ordeal of flying was already causing some of them to melt down. This kind of stuff is torture to them. One child, who couldn’t have been more than a few weeks old, was managing to sleep through it all. Pity her parents, who have to lug around all the stuff that comes with traveling with children. If you think it’s hard to go through this, go through this with children who’re going through it, too.

One thing did manage to brighten my morning. A cute little tyke, jumping up and down and squealing a happy squeal in the carrier her mom wore over her chest. I smiled. I caught her mother’s eye and said, “I love kids.”

Surprised, she said, “you do?”

“Yes,” I said, “they’re delicious.”

Waiting in line again, I get on the phone with my corporate travel office – which is only open during business hours (it’s 7 am on Saturday). Still, I get through to someone. They rebook me on a Midwest flight (official airline of the Milwaukee Brewers, thank you very much, and that cookie they serve during the flight – mmm…), leaving around 11:30, but still getting in just under the wire. I’m told to have the United gate agent print me a ticket. The agent, after waving his hands that he didn’t rebook it so he can’t verify that I have a seat, blah, blah, he prints out what looks like a ticket and a receipt. He then tears up my original boarding passes, so now this is the only proof I have that I’ve paid for any flight at all.

It was not a boarding pass, which I thought, but which the TSA agent kindly informed me. I need to check in at the ticket counter. (This is why I check in online and print my boarding passes.)

Only there’s no one at the ticket counter. First, the Midwest counter is at the complete, opposite end of the terminal – the very last one, in fact. And it’s closed. (Why would it be open? They don’t have any planes leaving for hours yet.) And while even AirTran has dozens of self-serv kiosks, Midwest has one, sad, unattended counter. So I get to start writing this post, for an hour, before it’s staffed again.

“Then, there was trouble.”

Turns out the paper I have isn’t a boarding pass, nor is it a ticket. It’s got a whole bunch of numbers and codes on it that say, “he was ours, he’s your problem now.” The agent tells me I need a ticket to check in. So she sends me over to the United counter – at the other end of the terminal – to get a ticket.

This counter is staffed – though the staff insist I can use the self-serv kiosk. I’m belligerent enough that they take a look at my stuff, and they can’t understand why the gate agent didn’t print the ticket out. Here you go, no problem.

Back to the Midwest counter.

“Then, there was trouble.”

The agent says she can’t give me a boarding pass, because she needs to attach it to a ticket. Now, I just handed her what looked and felt like an airline ticket, and it was stapled to my other paperwork, so I’m befuddled.

See, there’s a ticket number, but at the top it says, “e-ticket.” Apparently this means it ceases to be made of paper. And, being electronic, you can’t actually staple a boarding pass… to the paper… with “e-ticket” written on it.

I consider suggesting writing “put me on a friggin’ plane, you dolt” across the top, but deign to listen to her tell me it’s the system that won’t allow her to do it.

So she sends me back to the United counter.

At the other end of the terminal.

Still carrying my bags.

The United staff share my “are you a freakin’ idiot?” moment and write me a “do this” note to take back.

Now I can has barding pasz. One with “SSSS” written all over it. It apparently stands for “Super Secret Special Screening.” Because, before, when I booked my flight myself, I was OK. But now that they’ve canceled my flight and I’ve been standing around the airport for hours, now I’m a security risk. I’ve been through security once already, and I haven’t left the airport, but now I might be carrying a bomb.

Which, come to think of it, doesn’t seem that far fetched. Though I’d be more inclined to bomb the useless plane I kicked off than the one that might actually take me where I’m going. I just hope they don’t put the toddlers through this.

(I should note that the very polite gentleman who checked all my stuff, explaining that it’s common to be “selected” in cases of canceled flights, who was using his high tech gadgets to detect microscopic traces of explosive components on my laptop, was a bit awestruck at the discovery of my Bluetooth headset. He hadn’t seen anything like it before. Way to keep up with technology.)

It’s OK. I’ve got nothing on me that would warrant a FBCS (figure it out). And I’ve got hours before my plane leaves. Take your time. I should be able to get to the press just in time.

(I’ll point out that I got to the press, went to my hotel, finished writing most of this, watched a movie, went to bed… and then went to approve the color on press, 11 hours later. Again, don’t feel bad for me. I keep thinking about my 2-yr-old son, who woke up looking for daddy. When he told me on the phone, “I want to go to the airport, too,” he still could have.)

The Midwest ticket agent asked me if I would be willing to accept sitting in an exit row (“sorry, that’s all I have available”) – oh, hell yeah. “Willing to accept” extra legroom? Are you kidding?

Except when you’re sitting next to someone who’s booked the exit row because they need the extra room. The shoulders of the linebacker sitting next to me extended into my headrest. I spent the trip leaning out into the aisle.

Still, I managed to sleep. Except for when I kept getting hit by the drink trolly.

That cookie was pretty good.

Published in: on November 25, 2008 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hammer time: US citizen security threatened by insecure "secure" passports

I am so taking a hammer to mine… when I eventually get around to renewing it.

clipped from www.boingboing.net

New US RFID passports manufactured offshore at a huge profit, transported by unsecured couriers

After the computer chips are inserted into the back cover of the passports in Europe, the blank covers are shipped to a factory in Ayutthaya, Thailand, north of Bangkok, to be fitted with a wire Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, antenna. The blank passports eventually are transported to Washington for final binding, according to the documents and interviews.

Outsourced passports netting govt. profits, risking national security
(via Beyond the Beyond)

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Published in: on October 31, 2008 at 10:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Air Fair 2: Dyspeptic Bugaboo – TSA rules hard to swallow

I’m a fan of BoingBoing.net. They have several ongoing threads regarding the current state of the Security Theater™ under the oppression of which we now live. Among the heart-rending stories of children being forcibly removed from planes and grandmothers being accused of paedophilia for taking pictures of empty playgrounds, are numerous stories about the malfeasance that is the TSA. One of the more recent is the TSA employee who managed to walk out of Newark “Liberty” (ha!) International with a couple hundred thousand dollars of high-end electronics (cameras, laptops, GPS’s) from passengers’ bags over the course of (at least) several months, with not even the TSA noticing.

So, I’m flying out of Newark this trip. Didn’t have any issues this time (unlike others, see below). I even went through with the Swiss Army nail clipper that I had meant to take out of my bag. (it doesn’t have a knife, but the nail file is rather pointy. and then there’s that miniature screw driver…) After reading all the stories of people having things like nail clippers confiscated, I was surprised to find it there later. Either they’re allowing people to trim their nails on planes now, or they just didn’t notice. Past experience would suggest the later, but since they did find the two 1 oz. bottles of shampoo and conditioner I saved from the hotel’s refuse on the return trip, I have to assume they saw it and let it go.

Do you know what else they’re apparently allowing on planes now? Knitting needles.

Knitting fucking needles.

Yeah, I know, you can’t really see them in the shot, but trust me, that old lady was pearling two while I was trying to surreptitiously snap a pic with my phone. I was wary of being frog marched off the plane for the “suspicious act” of taking a picture. Because only terrorists use cameras and only little old ladies use 8-inch metal spikes. On planes.

They’re apparently also exempt from the “please put all carry-on items under the seat in front of you” rule. You put the loose stuff that’s not tied down under the seat so that it doesn’t fly across the plane in an accident. The damage you’d take from the “rapid deceleration trauma” of the plane suddenly meeting concrete isn’t made any better by metal spikes suddenly meeting the back of your head.

(I probably would have let it go in this case, too, as where she was sitting they would likely only fly through first class.)

Bruce Schneier [Schneier.com] is my hero. I’ve read many articles and blog posts written by him in the realm of computer security. His expertise is not limited to mere computers but encompasses Security in general. He should be granted sainthood. He contributed to an Atlantic Monthly article recently [“The Things He Carried”] which showed just how easily airport security [theater] can be circumvented. If you think a bunch of near minimum wage, marginally educated, authority abusing, blue-shirted baggage [mis]handlers are keeping you safer, you need to read this article.

And if you think it the height of irresponsibility to show just how easy it is to create a fake boarding pass, walk right around things like no-fly lists, with prohibited items in your pockets, consider this: I used to share your opinion.

I once considered it morally and ethically reprehensible that someone would publish ways of circumventing the things that keep us safer. A number of things changed my mind. One, of course, was Mr. Schneier. Another was the book Little Brother by BoingBoing contributer Cory Doctorow. They caused me to see the instructions on how to defeat most padlocks with a soda can in a new light.

You buy locks to keep your things yours. You now know that a great many people know how to walk right through that lock like it’s not there. After you get over the initial fear that nothing is safe anymore, you go out and buy a new, functional lock. And that makes you safer.

My mother lives in a “gated” community. I say that in quotes because the “gate” is operated by people who are not working for the TSA, for what ever reason, and can be walked right around – and frequently is. When you pull up and say, “hi, I’m here to see my mom,” they ask, “do you have the number?” being too lazy to look it up. (I’m only assuming laziness – there could be other reasons they might not be willing or able to discern the numbers and their order in a book.)

“Sure,” I say, “it’s [my wife’s cell phone number].” My wife, sitting next to me, answers the ringing phone in her hand when the “guard” calls and says, “OK, let them in.”

Did I harm anyone (besides the gate operator’s feelings)? Did I point out a flaw in the system? If you live there, do you feel safer knowing this? Do you really think no one of criminal intent has already found – and possibly already exploited – this flaw? Should you chastise me for pointing it out to everyone (put the keyboard down, mom) or should you find a way to fix it?

Not only are the TSA’s rules seemingly arbitrary, they’re capriciously enforced. (big “DUH!” if you’ve flown recently.)

  • My wife and I are waiting on the security line to board a plane. I take from her hand, by mistake (because I would never purposefully try to create a stir that could get me arrested), her ticket and passport. Handing them to the agent who took enough time from talking his buddy to hold out his hands, he looks them up and down, determines they’re valid, and hands them back to me all without looking at my face. Many men have feminine-sounding first names, and it’s possible dye one’s hair from blond (in the photo) to brown (mine) or vice-versa, but the scruffy, unshaven man holding the boarding pass is decidedly not female.
  • I’m flying out of Newark, not long after one guy tries (and fails) to light the shoelace fuse on his shoe bombs. Everyone now has to take of their shoes. On the return trip from a, shall we say, less urban airport, I ask, “do I have to take my [boots that lace all the way up past my ankles] off?” “Nah, g’head.” So, is rural America safe from us big city folk, but not the other way around? Wait…
  • Coming back again from said not-so-urban-but-then-I’m-an-east-coast-elitist airport, Sheriff J.W. Pepper pulls my bag aside. “Is this your bag, sir?” I’m expecting a world of crap for the rat’s nest of cables and wires for all of the electronics I’m carrying. Pulling items from my bag, he takes the time to remind me that all liquids must be carried in a sealable, zippered, clear plastic bag. He then proceeds to take my toiletries from the zippered, clear plastic bag that came with my luggage, and so doesn’t say “Ziploc” on it.
         When I foolishly attempted to argue with the double-digit IQ that was detaining me, saying, “I flew out of New York with everything like that,” he says, “New York is a very busy area; they don’t take security as seriously as we do here.” Truth be told, no one’s crashed a plane into anything near there recently. (And then there’s those knitting needles…)
         After my dangerous toothpaste was secured in a provided baggie, we all became safer and could fly again. I proceeded down the end of the corridor to put my shoes back on, and my deodorant et al. back into my toiletry bag, in full view of TSA personel. (because real terrorists are not able to get into plastic bags, once they’re sealed.)
         In case you were wondering, the only thing this policy keeps safe is your shirt, when the change in cabin pressure makes things like shampoo bottles pop open and drip down out of the overhead. But then perhaps you should be threatened with arrest for being inconsiderate and careless.

As Schneier points out in the Atlantic Monthly article, even when it works, it only keeps you safe from the stupid terrorists.

  • On another trip, I headed to the automated check in kiosk, instead of the attended but otherwise vacant ticket counter. Attempting to get my boarding pass, I was asked for the credit card on which it was purchased – a corporate card, which I don’t have. Next choice was scanning my passport, which I didn’t bring for a domestic flight, then my driver’s license, which didn’t cooperate. Typing in the confirmation number manually produced no results, so it was off to the ticket counter. They were very friendly (really) helping check in the man with only basic ID, without the card under which the ticket was purchased, who attempted to get a boarding pass with no human interaction and failed. It was when I was going through the security check that I noticed the “OOO” on my boarding pass (when the person checking my ID highlighted it).
         Singled out for “additional screening,” I waited for someone to go through my bag and wipe my laptop with one of those papers that turns blue or something when you’re pregnant or there’s explosives inside. Unfortunately it was lunch time, so no one was available, except the supervisor (I think) who x-rayed my bag. He said, since he’s the one who x-rayed it, he’s not supposed to be the one to check manually. This makes perfect sense. He was very apologetic, admitting how silly it was that he had to be the one to look through everything, since he just looked through it on a screen.

The bomb only needs to get through once. If anyone really meant us harm, how many times would they attempt to get truly hazardous things like beer past security, when the worst that happens is they get turned away? 100? 1000? At how many different airports? No amount of Dramamine® can help the sick feeling in your stomach that should cause.

Published in: on October 24, 2008 at 1:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Full of wit: if you can’t think straight, then the terrorists have won

Richard Pryor said:
“Snakes make you run into trees. White people see a snake and go, ‘snake!’ (turns) POW! (face into outstretched hand)”

Please try to remember this when (that’s right when) Bin Laden tries to get you to vote for McCain.

via BoingBoing

In Case of Terrorist attack, do not discard brain.

With Barack Obama so far ahead in the polls some people are getting worried that this election cycle’s October surprise will be a terrorist attack.

keep your brain running at all times. When you switch it off bad things happen.

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Published in: on October 24, 2008 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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