Naked Neighbors

What if I told you I was going to punch you in the face sometime in the future?

What would you give up to spare this unfortunate collision of knuckles and nose? A dollar? A twenty? Would you invest in a face mask, helmet and Kevlar vest? Would you stay at home and never come out? Would you give a stranger naked pictures of yourself  in exchange for a vague promise of protection? Actually I’m guessing you probably would just tell me to f-off, and/or punch me in the face depending on how hard core you were.

But, what if my name was Osama-Omari-Middle Eastern-Dark-Skinned-Man-with-a-Turban?

And what if Fox, CSPAN and Obama said that I was going to kill you, your family, and any cute floppy-eared puppies in the vicinity of your house? What would you give up then to spare this unfortunate collision of jet-liner with jenny & rover? It’s likely you would go all out, screw a $20, you’d give $2,000. Hell, you’d probably give naked pictures of yourself to all sorts of strangers in return for a vague promise of protection.

Actually, it seems that  you already are! Full body scanners, all the rage of the day, are taking off like co-workers on a Friday. Basically, if a low-income home owner or Mexican hasn’t already caused you to lose your job and you have some money to play with, you should invest in Rapiscan- one of two federally approved manufactures of full body scanners in the USA .

( I would give you their stock symbol, but Google finance says that’s private.  ERRrr? )

So let’s cut the chase and get to the point here. Basically some guy from Nigeria, whose parents forewarned the U.S. Government about his diabolic intentions, got on a plane and tried to blow up his underwear. The United State’s response? Obama made up a list of 14 “naughty countries” including the major island-nation of Cuba, USA-run Iraq, and reigning nuclear heavy weight Algeria; from now on, anyone flying to the USA from these terroristic nations will have to go through additional screening mechanisms.

In addition, with absolutely, positively no pressure from the United States government or corporate interests, several European nations are stepping up their use of full body scanners on passengers planning to fly to the United States from terror hotspots like Italy, Britain, and the notorious Netherlands.

(Some countries though are dragging their feet however, with Germany stating that before they use such scanners they want the ridiculous assurances that: “they increase security, that they are not a health hazard, and that the scans do to not harm the individuals’s rights)

So what’s the problem with these scanners? Well honestly it’s not that big of a deal, but let’s look at a few:

1)  Some guy takes a picture of you. Naked.

While it’s true that if you are uncomfortable with this technology you can request TSA personnel to personally grope you instead, there’s no guarantee this user-friendly alternative will always be an option.

You might say big deal, sucks to fly to the United States from somewhere else, but the fact is, these scanners have been tested in the US since 2003 and are already operational in 40 major US airports including:  Dallas, Baltimore, Denver, Tampa, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Miami, Phoenix San Francisco and Richmond.

2) There is no way to guarantee a passenger’s privacy. Officials say that personnel reviewing the Passengers Gone Wild! images sit in a remote room, will not see a distinguishable face and cannot save or print the images. Sounds great. Then why do I know what Susan Hallowell looks like naked? And how come this guy’s baby maker is on full display?

I highly doubt that Beyonce or President Obama (or me) are going to go through these scanners and the image won’t turn up somewhere.

3) How about this one: are we going to take naked scans of kids? 10 year old Johnny? 6 year old Susie?  Don’t think so? Wait till we get child bombers. Or what about the Muslim women who don’t even reveal their face in public? Are we going to tell them if they want to come to the US we have to check out their goods first? That’s going to make us a lot of Middle-Eastern friends.

4) Or how about health? Don’t the X-ray and MRI technicians always slap a lead vest on you and hide in the next room when they take scans?  These airport scanners are full body and last at least 15 seconds.  Free cancer with every 1,000 frequent flier miles!

5) Here’s another problem- follow the money. The former head of Homeland Security who has been pushing the government to purchase more of these scanners has just admitted that he has a consulting relationship with a full body scanner manufacturer. I’m willing to bet he’s not the only politician, past or present, that stands to gain from this lucrative business- each of these machines are retailing at over $170k, and the TSA just ordered 150 of them with plans to buy another 300.

Okay, so if you’ve stuck with me this long, now I get to the real issues, the aforementioned issues are really just sensationalistic fluff for those of you who saw the word “naked” on facebook and clicked on over.  The real problems are the deeper currents of growing government intrusion in our lives in the name of “security”.

Throughout history, the rights of people in this nation have been compromised for the “safety of the nation”. It seems to me that this line of reasoning got lots of nice Japanese folks kidnapped and locked up on the west coast during WWII.

It Seems to me that this got us a 1,000 page Patriot Act passed in the middle of the night after 9/11. And it seems now that its setting us on the proverbial and terribly cliché “slippery slope” of absolute governmental control over our selves. Nothing is more fundamental than our bodies. Without a right to the autonomy of our own body all other struggles are futile.

Today a guy sticks a bomb in his underwear and we wind up with naked imagery as a solution. This will be about as effectual as building a picket fence with Mexico to keep out immigrants. Know why? Because tomorrow some misguided soul is going to stick a bomb up their rectum- out of the reach of a body scanner. Then what? Full cavity searches for all passengers, spread your leg’s please mam?  Or some jackoff is going to swallow a chemical compound and then we are all going to have to purge in a personal bucket we can reclaim at the security clearance window, two heaves please sir?

Sure it is easy to sit in my cozy terror-free apartment enjoying a slice of sweet potato pie and criticize those who would sacrifice our liberties in the name of our safety

After all I wasn’t on Flights 11, 175, 77, or 93 in 2001, and I wasn’t on Flight 253 this past Christmas—but it is easier still to change the channel,  to turn off the radio, to close the webpage when I come upon a thorny issue that’s not easily reduced to black and white.  So perched up here on my soapbox, do I have some grand plan for national security? No, (actually I do)  but what I do know is that when we accept rapid national adoption of reactionary policies that infringe upon our liberty in order to negate  undefinable threats, we do ourselves a disservice as human beings and as thoughtful engaged citizens.

People are quick to jump on the bandwagon decrying how our government failed to protect us and let a terrorist slip through their fingers. I disagree. It is no more reasonable for us to believe the government can ensure 100% exclusion of foreigners who would do as harm, than it was for China to believe the Great Wall was going to keep all the Mongols out.

I will however, jump on the bandwagon of people who fault our government for not doing more to proactively reach out to the world in a positive way.  Here’s one idea- establish a Department of Peace– the legislation  has been raised in Congress over 100 times since 1935- including the last 8 consecutive years (yeah Kucinich!) .  

This singular act would do more for our security than 1,000 naked pictures ever could

You know what f- -k, it, I’m being too idealistic. For our children’s future, let’s all just get anal probes and start a war with Yemen.

-kd-

Further resources:

Petition against body scanners

Rapiscan

Warm & cuddly video on body scanners

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An Abortion Joke

abortionrex_228x300I have a joke for you:

A distraught women walks into an abortion clinic. Due to (insert her reason here), she had finally decided to go through with the procedure.

The Doctor, about to preform the procedure says to her: “You know, you’re about to kill a baby right?”

The women, visibly upset looks at the doctor. She can’t believe the words coming out of his mouth.

Unperturbed, he continues “I’ll do this if you want, but you should know that you are probably going to commit suicide afterwords?”

Horrified, the women runs out of the clinic, in search of a more compassionate doctor.

Funny huh?

Actually, in retrospect, that joke wasn’t really that funny. In fact, its kind of insensitive. I’m not sure what possessed me to write it. Maybe it was the article I read in Newsweek today, detailing a STATE SANCTIONED SCRIPT doctors in South Dakota must read to women before performing an abortion.

That’s right. The government has mandated that medical professionals must read a pre-determined script to all females seeking an abortion.  Among other things, the doctor is required to warn the woman that she is about to:

terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being with whom she has an existing relationship…the procedure brings statistically significant risks, including increased risk of suicidal ideation or suicide

To say the least, this script is dubious in fact and heavily value laden. No amount of interpretation on my end can do justice to the critique of this egregious and audacious policy that is necessary.

I’m dumbfounded and at a loss for words.

-kd-

Ballot Initiatives- Friend or Foe?

On November 4th millions of Americans will be walking into polling stations, ready to declare their preference for President. Many will also cast ballots for senators, representatives, and other party officials. Some however, will also be casting their votes on various measures, initiatives, and propositions.

In Colorado they will be deciding the fate of affirmative action:

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a prohibition against discrimination by the state, and, in connection therewith, prohibiting the state from discriminating against or granting preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting…?

California voters will again be looking at gay marriage:

LIMIT ON MARRIAGE. CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Amends the California Constitution to provide that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: The measure would have no fiscal effect on state or local governments. This is because there would be no change to the manner in which marriages are currently recognized by the state.

South Dakota residents will be voting on abortion:

An Act to Protect the Lives of Unborn Children, and the Interests and Health of Pregnant Mothers, by Prohibiting Abortions except in Cases where the Mothers Life or Health is at Risk, and in Cases of Rape and Incest.

Massachusetts residents get to choose if they want to pay taxes:

This proposed law would reduce the state personal income tax rate to 2.65% for all categories of taxable income for the tax year beginning on or after January 1, 2009, and would eliminate the tax for all tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2010.

And Oregon Residents may choose to replace English as Second Language(ESL) classes with English Immersion Classes:

The measure would limit the use of foreign language instruction in public schools to: 1 year for students in kindergarten to 4th grade. 1.5 years for 5th grade through 8th grade. 2 years for high school students. It would also prohibit ESL (English as Second Language) teaching programs for longer than the mandated time.

You may have noticed that every website I linked to above is opposed to the measures. This IS on purpose. Why? Because the reality of ballot initiatives is that by in large they represent the efforts of a small number of conservative citizens who seek to roll back basic civil liberties or otherwise hurt vulnerable populations in their state.

Why are ballot initiatives used? In states like California, where gay marriage is legal, it would be very difficult to have the legislature vote to revoke that right. The reason is that by in large the public supports gay marriage, and so the legislators support it. But, unhappy with these results, conservatives (often from out of state- as in the case in Colorado’s anti-affirmative action initiative), collect a few thousand signatures, and hope that higher conservative turnout at the polls will allow the general will of the public to be usurped.

Just take a look at these initiatives: anti-gay marriage, anti-affirmative action, anti-foreign language, anti-taxes, anti-abortion: they are all the work of conservatives bent on removing social protections, basic civil liberties, and in general, a just society.

Passage of any of these propositions will represent a loss for many. Gay couples in California will be in limbo again, and unable to marry, teens and others in South Dakota who realize they are not prepared to raise a child will be forced to carry the baby and give birth, minorities in Colorado protected from institutional discrimination will be vulnerable again, immigrant children in Oregon will have their ESL classes terminated on the governments terms- not when they are ready, and hosts of low income and vulnerable populations in Massachusetts will be negatively impacted if the state loses $12 billion annually in revenue because some decide they don’t want to be taxed any more.

Get the facts about ballot initiatives here, and find out what’s on the ballot in your state:

Ballotpedia

Otherwise, you might wake up to more than one nightmare on the 5th.

-kd-

First Thing First

So its 11:30 & I just got done uploading new videos, links, and an Action of the Day to the website (thanks for your patience!).

I’ve been putting off writing a new article today because I wasn’t sure I had the energy to write a scathing critique of U.S. domestic & foreign policy. Honesty, I wasn’t even sure that I could choose which the most important issue was.

So here’s a quick poll- which of the following is the most serious issue to you? What would you want at the top of the president’s to do list?

Health care costs are spiraling out of control. A) Between 2000-2006, health care insurance premiums have risen over 70% B) 20% of our nation’s GDP goes towards health care costs- $2.3 Trillion annually C)For every dollar in insurance premiums collected by the private sector- 30% goes to “overhead” (such as CEO compensation), compared to only 3% in federal health care programs (Medicaid/Medicare). D) 47 million Americans have no health care. E) Insurance companies can legally deny health care insurance to people who are ill or have diseases.

-For years people have been trying to raise the alarm about the erosion of civil liberties and the constitution. A) The Patriot Act is widely regarded as a serious infringement upon the constitution & rights of citizens, and yet it still stands on the books. B) Guantanamo Bay, which has violated the constitution by indefinitely imprisoning individuals is still open 6 years later, (currently detaining at least 520 people) – and the Bush administration continues to refuse to close it. C) For the first time in U.S. history, an active military unit is scheduled to be deployed this month within United States borders. Their mission: to train & prepare for “crowd control”.

-Despite the War on Poverty, and the supposed burgeoning middle class, income inequality is still growing in the nation. A) Today, the top 1% of the population own 47% of the wealth, the top 19% own 44% of the wealth, and everyone else (80%) only control 9% of the wealth. B) An American working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year at the federal minimum wage ($6.55/hr), with no vacations or sick days, would only bring home $13,642 a year- and that’s before taxes. C) In America, the average CEO of a large company makes 364 times that of a line worker.

-Our stature in the world has greatly fallen, and many would say that our foreign policy needs to be completely revamped. A) Last time I checked, we were still in Iraq, spending $10 billion a month. B) Rhetoric is increasingly being directed at Iran, painting them as a serious national security threat (kinda like Iraq) C) The United States continues to make cross border raids into sovereign territory (Pakistan), without consulting with their government (Pakistan isn’t a huge fan of this). D) The United States has essentially acted unilaterally for the past 8 years, talking loudly & carrying a big stick. It hasn’t endeared us to anyone.

-The subprime mortgage crisis that spawned a worldwide market meltdown demonstrated the dangers of market deregulation, and endless pursuit of profit. A) In less than two weeks time, Congress passed out a bill that would authorize the spending of $700 billion in a financial bailout. B) The national debt clock in New York is no longer valid- the debt won’t fit on the digital ticker- $10,469,604,562,348.63 (Don’t worry- they are ordering a new clock). C) Iceland (yes an entire country) is just about bankrupt as a result of holdings in risky investments D) Retirement portfolios have been heavily hammered by the resultant stock market volatility – indications are that many are delaying retirement hoping for better days.

-Okay, so I’m biased, and slightly left of center. The major issue is something else. (tell us what you think it is)

-kd-

CT Becomes Third State to Allow Same Sex Marriage

This image, taken from http://www.lmfct.org, shows joyful celebration following the recent CT Supreme Court decision declaring that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry. Although the decision was split 4-3, the court held that denying same-sex couples the right to marry was akin to discriminatory laws of the past, such as those prohibiting inter-racial marriage, and women from working in certain occupations  (Read the text of the decision here).

Despite this victory for same sex couples in Connecticut, which was greatly aided by Love Makes a Family, opposition to the ruling is strong.  Governor Jodi Rell presumtatively stated ” I do not believe their [supreme court] voice reflects the majority of the people of Connecticut”, and the Family Institute of Connecticut remained openly hostile, referring to the justices as “robed masters” & “philosopher kings”.

While this day is a proud one for thousands of men and women of the state of Connecticut, and a glimmer of hope to thousands more in the other 47 states of this union, the question remains- where is the national leadership on this issue?

Senator Clinton on why she opposes same sex marriages:

“Well, I prefer to think of it as being very positive about civil unions. You know, it’s a personal position. How we get to full equality is the debate we’re having, & I am absolutely in favor of civil unions with full equality of benefits, rights, and privileges. I want to proceed with equalizing federal benefits.”

Senator Obama believes that marriage “is between a man and a woman“, but says he opposes a constitutional ban on gay marriages.

Governor Palin, and Senator Bidden both directly stated their opposition to same sex marriage during the vice-presidential debate.

Same sex couples have been discriminated against for decades, and while McCain tells us change is coming, which is presumably different from Obama’s change we can believe in, both candidates fall short in calling “civil unions” what they are- blatant discrimination in the same flavor of “seperate but equal”.

While Obama’s opposition to a federal ban on same-sex marriages is preferable to McCains support of “don’t ask don’t tell” and the 2006 Arizona ballot initiative to re-write the state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriages, stating you are against something, but against a law prohibiting what you are against reeks of double speak and pandering to the center. (I’ve had a change of heart- I was too quick to criticize here. 10-30.08 -kd-)

America’s gays and lesbians deserve better. Hats off to the CT Supreme Court for doing what most politician’s aren’t willing to say: prohibition of same-sex marriage is simply outright discrimination.

-kd-