Saturday, December 25, 2010

Opting Out

One of the stressful aspects of my last few weeks has been contemplating my possible confrontation with the TSA on my flight home for Christmas. Since the scan and grope controversy became well-known ('Don't touch my junk'), I decided I would not submit to the naked full-body scan or the testicular grope.

I have been imagining how it would go down when the TSA asked me to enter the scanner. I'd run it through my head like a teenager imagining how he would take down the class bully or make a beautiful speech to his class. It started with the argument--me explaining with well-chosen words how the TSA is completely ineffective, that the imagers and harassment were likely the result of a corrupt collaboration of the DHS with the manufacturers of the imagers, and that most importantly the TSA was violating my 4th amendment rights by searching me without cause. Then I would be verbally abused for a good hour or two and thrown out of the airport under vague directions that would allow the TSA to fine me $11,000. At that point my wife would have to retrieve our luggage, which the TSA would probably confiscate for added harassment and it would take us days before we could contact a lawyer, re-arrange plans and drive to Montana.

As our flight date approached, and I got more nervous, I realized the speech wasn't going to happen. I'm not eloquent in a confrontation. The best I could hope for was to object to the violation of my 4th amendment rights. The verbal and physical harassment I still fully expected.  The last TSA item I read before traveling was about a woman, a rape victim with a pacemaker, who objected to groping of her breasts and described being thrown to the floor and dragged 25 yards before being ejected and banned from the airport.

Of course I considered changing my mind and just accepting the scan/grope without objection. On the one hand it was going to be very costly for myself and my family, financially and psychologically. I don't expect that anyone should destroy their personal lives to fight creeping statism. Some do much more than I would and I admire them for it, but everyone has their limits. When you confront an armed aggressor, the principles of morality no longer apply. And after all, I was blogging about it and making my views known, going to Tea Party rallies, being vocal in other venues. On the other hand I considered that some tens of thousands of dollars and a few days of hell would be a small price to pay to defend the Constitution, my rights, the rights of my family and every other American citizen. I think my wife supported me in my position, but also dreaded the confrontation.

As I stood in the security line at LAX I was still wavering. It looked like the only people being scanned were those setting off the metal detector. That relieved me. I tried not to look nervous. My face felt a bit warm. As we put our stuff in the bins, I made triple, quadruple sure I had nothing metal on me. I didn't want a confrontation. The conveyor belt grabbed the last of our bins and I turned to follow my wife through the metal detector. The TSA agent waved me towards the full-body scanner. My heart sunk. I stepped over. "Are these the nude scanners?" I asked the agent standing in front of the nude scanner. "Yes," she said. "Can I opt out?" I asked. "Yes," she said, "stand over there." She indicated that I should stand in front of the metal detector, between the paths for people going to the detector and those going to the scanner. I hadn't meant to commit myself to opting out, I wanted to see what she'd say. She took my question as a decision. I stepped over to where she said, making my decision. She said to her walkie-talkie and the TSA agent at the metal detector, "we have an opt out." Not loudly, or angrily, perhaps a little annoyed. "Just wait there, it'll be a few minutes," she said to me. Here we go, I thought to myself. I looked over at my wife who had collected our things. She looked stricken.

Time passed very slowly. I kept still. I asked the agent at the detector a couple times if I could just go through and be on my way, I had nothing on me. "No," she said "you've been selected." It seemed like a while, but it was probably only 5 minutes before a male, hispanic TSA agent in his 20s came and got me. He seemed polite. He escorted me between the metal detector and the scanner so that I strangely avoided the metal detector altogether. Another agent opened a gate there for me and watched me disapprovingly as I walked through. The new agent asked me to retrieve my stuff and I told him my wife already had it.

We walked over to a small taped-off area with a chair just past the checkpoint. My wife waited nearby, still looking pale. The agent started explaining to me the necessity for a pat down. I interrupted, "I don't want you to touch my..." I didn't want to say 'junk'. The situation was too serious. He didn't wait for me to find the right word. He said that the media had overblown the pat down and that he wouldn't be touching any sensitive areas.  I asked again why I couldn't just go through the metal detector. He said that the random check wouldn't work if the selected could just go back through the detector. I remember saying a couple times "I just think what you're doing is wrong." But I don't remember in response to what. He kept insisting that he'd use the back of his hands and not touch anything sensitive. Finally, I told him to go ahead. I didn't really believe him. I still expected to have to stop him in the middle of his pat down. His demeanor dispelled any thought of being physically assaulted but I was still bracing for an ejection from the airport and a messy couple days. He talked me through as he did the pat down and was true to his word. He didn't probe my buttocks or genitals and used the back of his hands. He really came no where near my privates. It was over pretty quickly. He wished me merry christmas and I rejoined my wife.

Her first words to me where "I was just about to cry." We got coffee and boarded the plane, talking a bit but mostly just thinking about what happened. I had been spared the nude scan and genital grope, but not the anticipatory weeks of stress and very acute stress of the actual event. I had 'opted out' and perhaps made some kind of point with the passengers immediately around me and the TSA agents whose job it was to implement abhorent DHS policies. Was I lucky in my choice of airport or in the agent assigned to frisk me? Or has the TSA changed its approach, perhaps just for Christmas travel? The calm demeanor and lack of surprise or haste on the part of all the agents there indicate to me that it wasn't simply the agent I got. Perhaps the TSA leadership at LAX has taken an approach sympathetic to passengers rights. I wouldn't count on that kind of sympathy, but I'm glad I got it.

My position with regard to the TSA has not much changed. I still think airport security its a private matter to be handled by airports and airlines and that they should be left alone to manage it, including with procedures that involve profiling. And I still believe that their scans and grope are a violation of 4th amendment rights. The fact that the security procedures are a 'condition' of purchasing a ticket doesn't move me. The TSA has made it clear that all airports are compelled to use similar security measures. Therefore airports are simply agents acting on behalf of the TSA and the 'voluntary' requirements written into our plane tickets are not voluntary. (The fact that the DHS is expanding into bus and train travel is very disturbing.)

My view of the TSA agents themselves has changed. There are clearly some that are polite and sympathetic and not on a power trip. They might be a minority or might be a majority. I don't know. But from youtube videos, news reports and blogs its clear there are some pretty bad apples whose power-lust has been unleasted by TSA/DHS policies.

Lastly, I don't think I'll subject myself and my family to this stress again. We'll find other airports or simply drive. The extra cost and time will be worth it, worth it not to submit and also not to suffer the stress of bracing for arbitrary power.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Walmart Helping DHS Enlist Citizen Spies

Anyone who has read personal accounts or watched movies describing life in a dictatorship, e.g. in the USSR, Maoist China, Nazi Germany, or Cuba, will remember the passages describing the citizen spies. These are the block or building agents (or fellow prisoners) who, for a few more bread rations or slightly larger apartment report on their neighbors. They are sometimes well known, sometimes anonymous. Some make a life of it and others report only rarely. The state needs citizen spies for two reasons. First they are used to keep tabs on everyone, down to the last 'reactionary' teenager, child or grandmother. Second their existence and frequent anonymity turns citizens against one another. Each person comes to mistrust every other as a potential spy and destroyer of their lives. This can extend even into families: it is not uncommon for husbands to report on wives, grandparents to report on sons, and, most disturbingly, for children to be encouraged to rat on their parents to their public school teachers and thereby unknowingly destroy their parents and families. The natural reaction to this is to put your head down, not make noise and do as you're told. Which is exactly what the power-lusting politicians want. A citizenry that lives in constant mutual distrust and self-imposed silence will never organize and rebel.

Well, citizen spies are coming to a neighborhood near you. Obama's attempt a couple years back to get people to e-mail 'fishy' sounding messages to was roundly criticized and rejected. It seems almost laughable now:
For the record, the President has consistently said that if you like your insurance plan, your doctor, or both, you will be able to keep them. ... There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to
Janet Napolitano is taking a different tack. Apparently the TSA nudie scan and genital grope at the airport wasn't enough for one season. Nor was her promise to extend the scan and grope to buses, trains and boats. Now she's enlisted Walmart to broadcast this 'public service' announcement in its stores:

I was just feeling that Walmart was being done an injustice by the anti-big-box-store laws in our community, but if they're signing up with goose-stepping Napolitano, they and their citizen spies can go to hell. I'll never shop there again.

Now you might say, "that's perfectly reasonable, if I see a 20-something Arab male buying pallets of Clorox and fertilizer, it should be reported." But remember that muslims have been mostly given a pass on security measures: Hamas fundraisers are hired as FBI consultants, Napolitano herself considers allowing muslim women to use self-patdowns, young Arab men with one-way tickets purchased with cash (the underwear bomber) are escorted onto planes. The majority of mosques around the country are known to be vocally anti-American and many of them indoctrination centers for terrorists, but the DHS does nothing about their rapid expansion. Don't be fooled, the citizen spy network will be created to terrorize freedom-loving Americans. It will be used to silence and control what the DHS calls 'domestic extremists', e.g. anyone that refuses a TSA grope, believes in constitutional freedoms and does something about it. The DHS will blandly accept information on people that appear to be a threat to others, but what they're really digging for is information on people who are a threat to the dictatorship Napolitano and her ilk are building.

(Updated 12/08/10 for grammar.)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Protesting the Banks

There are a couple movements afoot to protest banks. Eric Cantona, French footballer, has suggested withdrawing your entire bank deposits to crash the banks. The date of December 7th (this coming Tuesday) has been suggested as the day of reckoning. (December 7th is also when the Irish parliament decides on the IMF bailout of Irish bank bondholders, promising to indebt Irish taxpayers for generations.) Its not clear what the political motivations are, i.e. whether Cantona and his followers view the corrupt banks as agents of freedom and capitalism or as agents of statism. Given that the movement is European, the motives are likely anti-capitalist, i.e. if the protest works they'd probably advocate an alternate government controlled entity to control money and credit. In his interview he even says that he's donating his idea to the trade unions. Funny because the banks are primary enablers of the welfare state and unions are prime beneficiaries of the same welfare state (along with the banks themselves) at the expense of everyone else. If it weren't for the banks, governments would be financing the welfare state by dramatically higher taxes or direct printing of money. Which I guess would at least be more honest but not solve the fundamental bankruptcy of the welfare state.

The mainstream media in Europe has taken Cantona's bank protest seriously and has argued, bizarrely, that while the banks are fraudulent and corrupt, everyone should leave their money be and solve the bankers' corruption through our ever-trustworthy politicians. Ummm, ok.

Another more narrowly targeted protest is being promoted by Max Keiser: buy silver and crash JP Morgan, the latter having a massive short position against silver. Max Keiser has a mixed relationship with capitalism. He's a great source of information on the fraudulent and fascistic (i.e. 'public-private' relationships) in the banks. He frequently refers to the U.S. Constitution in condemning the banks illegal activities. His previous life was in trading, especially program trading. But he's no pro-capitalist, has advocated various controls, supports the enviromental movement and is associated with Iranian state media. He has even suggested Sharia law as a third alternative to socialism and capitalism. (Keiser's comments start around 6:30)

Banks have been, by law, the enablers of democratic socialism for the last hundred years. Entitlement programs have grown so large that the inheritors of capitalist productivity have stalled everywhere. How can they not stall when such things as vacation are considered a 'human right'. While the banks were lending to governments, expanding credit to 'stimulate' the economy, creating financial instruments to implement government housing policy, they were also getting their cut. They are very noticably still obtaining record profits and bonuses during the worst financial period in 80 years.

The solution to the banking 'problem' however is not some new or different form of socialism, and certainly not Sharia. The solution is a laissez-faire capitalism. The banking system should be entirely separate from the state (like religion, education, economics), no supplying banks with printed money, no guaranteeing their deposits, no suspensions of specie payments, no state definition of money and who has to accept it. In a free banking system credit expansion is much smaller, not systemic and is self-correcting (through bank runs and failures). In a free banking system we'd be using gold and gold notes from our most trustworthy banks for money. In a free banking system we wouldn't witness such events as the great depression of the 1930s or the now burst housing bubble of the 2000s.  The first step towards freeing the banking system should be to let the big banks fail and the smaller more rational, bubble-avoiding banks take over. The second step should be to close down the Federal Reserve Banks.

So what about the protests?  Since both seem to be directed at bringing down capitalism rather than supporting more freedom, I cannot sanction either. I'm guessing there will be a more Tea Party, pro-capitalist, End-the-Fed style bank protest in the future and hopefully it'll make the right points. Meanwhile I do recommend, on no particular date: own physical gold and silver (junk silver is good for small transactions), get the hell out of bonds, stay low on deposited cash, use local banks and credit unions over the big bailed-out institutions, and have a good chunk of cash in a safety deposit box for the inevitable 'bank holidays'. Keep the state-run banking system at arms length as much as possible.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Love and Marriage and Mohammed

Koran 4:34 "If there are women whose disobedience you fear, you may admonish them, refuse to sleep with them, and then beat them."

Thus commanded Mohammed to his followers, who now number in the billions. But wait, you say, 'moderate' muslims wouldn't do such a thing.

From the Daily Mail:

Muslim imam who lectures on non-violence in Germany is arrested for beating up his wife

By Allan Hall
Last updated at 3:27 PM on 2nd December 2010

A Muslim imam who lectures on non-violence and advises the German government on interfaith issues has been arrested in Germany for beating up his wife.

Sheikh Abu Adam, 40, is now on remand in Munich while his wife, 31, is being guarded by police.

She was allegedly assaulted so badly that she suffered a broken nose and shoulder and numerous cuts and bruises.

Media reports claimed the woman, who has borne one of his ten children, wanted to live a more 'western' lifestyle and was allegedly attacked after telling her husband.

The police said they received a call from a lawyer hired by the victim.

Adam is alleged to have shouted a verse from the Koran at his wife as he beat her.

The line said: 'Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them.

'As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them.'

The imam is said to have refused to let police officers into his home, but they forced their way past him because they feared the woman's life was in danger.

Sheikh Adam is the Egyptian imam of the Darul Quran Mosque in Munich.

He is facing charges of causing grievous bodily harm and could face a jail term if convicted.

A week ago, he held a lecture at the city's Catholic University entitled 'An Islam which distances itself from violence'.

He also spoke at a recent conference called 'meeting Islam in Europe' and met German justice Sabine Leutheusser Schnarrenberger there.

Adam was assigned bodyguards on the outside because of his calls for Muslims to reject radical Islam. He is also being guarded while on remand from racist prisoners.

This is how a moderate muslim treats his muslim wife when she desires to become more Western (i.e. civilized), imagine what he'd do to actual Western infidels if given a chance. Mohammed hated infidels even more than disobedient wives.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

State Education and the Tea Party

I've been mulling a long time over the composition of the Tea Party movement, mostly 30+, well-educated yet not professional intellectuals. I think the answer lies in the failure of state run education. I do not mean failure in the sense of graduating students that can't read, write or add. I mean failure in the sense of graduating students that can't think.

Since the early 20th century progressive education has monopolized the education system, from elementary through university. The progressive education philosophy holds that there is no reality, that reason and the mind are impotent, that education per se is bad. The goal of schooling for the progressive is to either help the student express their feelings or to habituate the student to group discussions and decision making without substantive guidance. Its a rare teacher that teaches anymore, that imparts a body of knowledge to her students and a method of thinking about that content. More common are individual projects wherein the student expresses their uninformed thoughts on a topic, group bull sessions with teachers simply moderating, or straight up indoctrination on political or environmental topics (e.g. 5 year olds chanting slogans in Earth Day celebrations).

Progressive education is especially bad in the liberal arts, like history. Any high school or college graduate could probably express to you his sympathy for the plight of the American Indian, but could not tell you the difference between a democracy and a republic, between freedom and statism, between western civilization and primitive savagery.

The smart student who accepts the irrational principles of his progressive education becomes adept at playing their game, adept at twisting the meaning of words, adept at obscuring any topic, adept at finding exceptions to any principled statement. He gets plenty of practice time and has good mentors. Meanwhile the student that rejects the principles of progressivism, that thinks there is a reality, truth and principles, admires the United States, and condemns attacks on civilization goes silent. He has few mentors and little material to feed his curiosity.

The former student eventually becomes a professional, perhaps an intellectual: a journalist, author, teacher, artist. He propagates his progressive liberal ideas. Not so with the other student. Around the late high school or college level, if he's lucky, he starts to read in his own time books that promote reason, civilization, that teach him the history he never learned in 'social sciences'. He might discover Ayn Rand or free market economists (Hazlitt, Hayek, etc.) perhaps libertarians or conservative writers. He educates himself in economics, history, philosophy, but does not become a professional intellectual. That realm is monopolized by the progressives. He becomes a scientist, stock broker, small businessman, contractor.

And so we reach the situation we are in now. The mainstream media and political establishment, populated by the stars of progressive education is statist, irrationalist, anti-American. The rest of America, self-educated in the literature of freedom is in open rebellion against this media and politics. The internet has been critical in accelerating and broadening this self-education. What might have taken another 10 years or never arrived in time, now happens over the course of months. Washington makes a mess of housing and we learn about it, despite the attempts of the MSM to blame it on capitalism. Washington bails out the banks and we hear about it, we protest, the Tea Party is born.

Cudos to the internet for making our self-education possible, and cudos to us for spending the time to educate ourselves. But is it sustainable? The key to a long-term future for freedom is better leadership and youth involvement. The key to generating better leadership and youth involvement is eliminating the stranglehold the progressives have on education, which means eliminating state control of education. Ultimately there should be separation of state and education like there is state and religion. We need to support every effort to free education: the right to home school without restriction, voucher systems, privatizing student loans, elimination of collective bargaining for (teachers) unions, elimination of teacher certification, elimination of government grants.

When schools are once again free, as they were for most of a hundred years before, we'll have a chance to patronize schools that promote reason, science and freedom. Those will be the schools that turn out educated patriot leaders and a youth excited about freedom. Until then we'll always be playing catchup to the progressives.