lurkitty: (Pogo)
Let's face it. Star Simpson's choice of attire would probably have caused a stir at Logan Airport before 9/11.

Whether police would have shown up immediately with machine guns, or the story would have made national news on a level other than "Odd Story of the Day" remains another question. Instead, it earns the zeitgeist quote of the day, "This is total disregard for the situation; this is an airport, post-9/11." That was what Assistant Suffolk District Attorney Wayne Margolis told an East Boston District Court yesterday during Simpson's arraignment.

Simpson was charged with "possessing a hoax device". In the accounts I've read, Simpson hasn't really claimed the device was a bomb, just an art piece. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

There is an overriding assumption nowadays that because we are living in a "post 9/11world" we must change our behavior, our language and even our thought accordingly. We must accept that there are things we simply cannot do.

I recall a time (pre-9/11) when my ex-husband. a computer scientist working on a research vessel, was bringing home several non-working satellite tag devices used on whales, as well as video equipment that had been broken or inundated with seawater. The tags were 6cm diameter, 20 cm long aluminum cylinders with epoxy-potted electronics inside that could not be inspected and a metal cable antennae - in short, they looked like pipe bombs. He had eight or nine of them, along with the non- working electronics in a duffle bag. T had been on a boat for 4 weeks and had not shaven (he hated getting near sharp objects on a moving boat). He was taking all of this through Customs into the US.

They searched his clothes bag and didn't even open the electronics duffle.

Would he have been able to set foot in an airport with that bag today? How could his group have been able to transport the tags back for repairs had he not been able to carry them from Nova Scotia himself?

Even more disturbing is the revelation of the depth of detailed information our government is collecting on travelers. When several activists requested copies of official records of their travels, they were astonished find out that details of personal items such as reading materials, names of traveling companions and phone numbers of family members were kept on file by the government. In one case, the records contained the fact that a man was carrying a book on marijuana and several flashlights with marijuana leaves.

These were not people who had violated any laws, but civil rights activists, and in one case, simply a frequent corporate flyer. There is no way to get information removed from the system, and no way to correct erroneous information.

According to the Washington Post article: Edward Hasbrouck, a civil liberties activist who was a travel agent for more than 15 years, said that his file contained coding that reflected his plan to fly with another individual. In fact, Hasbrouck wound up not flying with that person, but the record, which can be linked to the other passenger's name, remained in the system. "The Automated Targeting System," Hasbrouck alleged, "is the largest system of government dossiers of individual Americans' personal activities that the government has ever created."

He said that travel records are among the most potentially invasive of records because they can suggest links: They show who a traveler sat next to, where they stayed, when they left. "It's that lifetime log of everywhere you go that can be correlated with other people's movements that's most dangerous," he said. "If you sat next to someone once, that's a coincidence. If you sat next to them twice, that's a relationship."


Why do we accept this invasion of privacy? Does it not smack of guilt until proven innocent? Is the underlying assumption that if a person is reading a book on marijuana laws, they must be smuggling marijuana? Does simply boarding a plane serve as probable cause for searching every single person for illicit substances, explosives and anti-government materials?

Should passengers arriving and departing an airport terminal live in fear of uttering any words that might possibly offend an official doing a search?

We have open our luggage, taken off our shoes, and stripped off our clothes. Our personal lives are being violated. It is time to say enough is enough. We are not a nation of criminals and we know it. We have the right to move within our country unfettered, and we have the right to move outside of it without the threat of unlawful search and seizure. This is not making us safer. It is making us sheep.
lurkitty: (Pogo)
Who are the Jena 6 and why you should care.

I walked out of the grocery store yesterday here in suburbia right behind two middle-aged African Americans. One was a bit agitated. I tried to get closer to hear what he was saying because it seemed to me he was talking about someone in the store hassling him, singling him out because he was black. I wanted to know. It has happened before in my community; an insular, white, working class place. It happens out of ignorance.

There are over ten thousand people marching in Jena, LA. Listening to the media coverage of the event, it is because six African American students were charged initially with attempted murder when they beat up a white student, and white students were suspended for only three days when they hung nooses from a tree.

That isn't the whole story. Not by a long shot. Even an august newspaper of the calibre of the NYT has failed to bring forward the facts that have lead to filling this 85% white community with thousands of people of color. In doing so, they have perpetuated the the racism.

The story, as described more fully by NPR in July, starts last year, when a new African American student asked the principal at Jena High School if he could sit under a big shade tree in the courtyard where white students were sitting. The principal told the student he could sit anywhere he liked.

The next morning, three nooses were found hanging from the tree. The three white boys responsible were initially recommended to be expelled, but instead received a suspension for three days.

From the NPR article:
The school called an assembly and summoned the police and the district attorney. Black students sat on one side, whites on the other. District Attorney Reed Walters warned the students he could be their friend or their worst enemy. He lifted his fountain pen and said, "With one stroke of my pen, I can make your life disappear.

Black students felt the white DA was looking right at them. The racial tensions continuted, and on Nov. 30, the school was burned down. Each side thought the other was responsible.

Again, from NPR:

The next night, 16-year-old Robert Bailey and a few black friends tried to enter a party attended mostly by whites. When Bailey got inside, he was attacked and beaten. The next day, tensions escalated at a local convenience store. Bailey exchanged words with a white student who had been at the party. The white boy ran back to his truck and pulled out a pistol grip shotgun. Bailey ran after him and wrestled him for the gun.

After some scuffling, Bailey and his friends took the gun away and brought it home. Bailey was eventually charged with theft of a firearm, second-degree robbery and disturbing the peace. The white student who pulled the weapon was not charged at all.

The following Monday, Dec.4, a white student named Justin Barker was loudly bragging to friends in the school hallway that Robert Bailey had been whipped by a white man on Friday night. When Barker walked into the courtyard, he was attacked by a group of black students. The first punch knocked Barker out and he was kicked several times in the head. But the injuries turned out to be superficial. Barker was examined by doctors and released; he went out to a social function later that evening.


To reiterate, when a white boy pulled a gun, he was not charged. The black boy was charged with stealing the gun and disturbing the peace. No charges were brought when the black boy was beaten, but when the white boy incurred superficial wounds, the blacks were charged with felonies.

This is why people are marching on Jena. The shade tree that bore the shades of strange fruit has been chopped down, but the legacy of inequality remains.

Currently, Mychal Bell, the only defendant remaining in jail, may be released sometime today, according to CNN. Last week, an appellate court vacated his conviction on the basis that he should not have been tried as an adult. He has served nine months so far.

The US Attorney for the Western DIstrict of Louisiana, Donald Washington, has determined that while the noose incident bore some marking of a hate crime, it did not meet Federal criteria because the students were under 18 and did not belong to the KKK or other hate groups.

That is not to say the KKK is not present, as this incident in nearby Alexandria shows.


No more Strange Fruit. Free the Jena 6.
lurkitty: (Pogo)
Protesters going to a march have some reasonable expectation of conflict with the police. This weekend's march on the Capitol included a "die-in" during which over 100 pre-selected participants tried to get arrested in the name of a dead American soldier. This is a well-known and often highly choreographed dance, with rules and playbooks on both sides dating back to the 'sixties, when the two fingered "V" for Victory salute was co-opted into the anti-war Peace symbol.

A truly disturbing trend has emerged, however, involving the individual arrest and brutal treatment of individual, unarmed citizens seeking merely to participate in the Democratic process. On Sept. 11th, Rev. Lennox Yearwood, a former Air Force officer, was waiting in line to attend the Petraeus hearings. By his own account, given to Democracy Now!:
But instead, when I got there, I was waiting in line. I was standing there. I had to do a radio interview. I asked the officer, I said, “Can I step out of line for a second to do an interview?” He said, “No problem.” I did my interview. I came back to the line. I got back in the line. I was waiting.

A policeman passing out post-it notes passed over both Rev. Yearwood and Col. Ann Wright, telling them that they could not get in. Col. Wright was subsequently given a post-it, but Rev. Yearwood, who was wearing a button that said "I love the Iraqi People" and was the only person-of-color in the line, was not given a pass.

And that’s when it started. I said, “Why are you singling me out? What is going on?” It’s important to know. We have this huge rally at the White House, and a march to the Capitol is coming Saturday. And I know my picture is on the flier. But regardless, I asked, “Why are you singling me out?”

At that point in time, they became to be aggressive, and they got around me. And I said that -- “You’re going to be arrested.” I said, “What am I going to be arrested for? What have I done? I just want to go inside and hear the hearing for myself.” At that point in time, one came behind me, said, “You’re going to be arrested.” And then somebody grabbed me on my shoulder. And I kind of turned. Amy, by the time I turned, I was on the ground. And I actually just felt myself going headfirst into the concrete.


A video of the scene starts at the point where Rev. Yearwood is saying "Why are you singling me out?" It shows that the police are speaking of arresting him long before he actually commits any crime. Rev. Yearwood was standing in line talking to the police. What would the charge have been had he not reflexively moved away from the policeman that grabbed him from behind? What exactly was he doing wrong? Wearing a button? Asking why he was being arrested? Being Black in public?

When Rev. Yearwood was tackled by the six to eight Capitol police officers, his leg was injured and initially thought to be broken.

On Monday night, Sen. John Kerry was speaking at a campus forum at the Univeristy of Florida. When a student stepped up to the mike for the last question of the evening, it was obvious from the start that he had an agenda. Andrew Meyer went on and rambled in asking his question before his mike was cut off. Campus police moved in and grabbed him, carrying him off and finally wrestling him to the ground and tasering him.

Watching the video, there were several points where the the situation could have been deescalated. Sen. Kerry was already trying to calm the student down and answer his question when the police grabbed him from behind. The student was already pinned to the ground by several officers before he was tasered.

The Machinist blog at Salon point out that, like the UCLA taser incident earlier this year, the taser was used in "drive stun mode". Quoting the blog:

In typical Taser operation, the gun shoots out electrode darts at a target. The darts incapacitate the target. Drive stun mode, on the other hand, is meant for close contact. There are no shooting electrodes -- the gun is placed directly on a target's skin. Drive stun does not incapacitate a target. He merely feels a great deal of pain that officers hope will induce compliance.

According to the Palm Beach Post, Taser International, the company that makes the device, warns officers that drive stun mode can lead to "prolonged struggles" with targets and that "it is in these types of scenarios that officers are often facing accusations of excessive force."


There you have it. The taser was not used to incapacitate the subject, but to inflict pain. Is this sort of treatment really warranted in the case of an unarmed student disrupting a forum that was nearly over?

Two officers have been placed on leave in the Florida case and the charges against Meyer are being reviewed. University President J. Bernard Machen made a statement yesterday voicing his regret that civil discourse did not occur.

It is tempting to blame police for this sort of problem. Police, however, act on orders and guidelines from their superiors. What is leading them to believe that individuals who question authority are as threatening as those who wield physical weapons? Why has the use of force been allowed to expand to the point that it is okay to subdue someone who is resisting only with words, not with actions?

In both these cases, the police escalated a verbal confrontation to a physical confrontation and the subject ended up in pain. This trend bears examination and intervention.
lurkitty: (bunny waffle)
I've just changed my sheets with some help from Bella. Having a pretty little girl, even if she is a cat, in my bed is really the best thing that's happened in a long time.

So, I've thought of a bedroom poll:

[Poll #1056868]
lurkitty: (corset)
Those of us who are endowed with virtues that precede us into the room will appreciate the time and effort that went into this study from the University of Portsmouth: bra designers have generally underestimated the pressures induced by breasts during a range of activities. In addition, the found that even A-cup women are susceptible to breast pain due to underperforming sports bras; breast pain due to exercise is not limited to big-breasted women.

Even jogging slowly did not limit the pain. Only a highly-supportive sports bra can help.

The ultimate solution may lie in electronically enhanced brassieres. Bras made out of clot embedded with sensors and actuators to respond when more support is needed according to movement levels.

Now, if they could just make one with a bozo-alert sensor to keep us from falling for the guy that just isn't good for us.
lurkitty: (neko)
ABC News reported on Friday that the CIA has finally banned the use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique. Their report stated tthat the decision was made by Gen. Michael Hayden and was approved by the White House some time in the last year, but never made public. Other officials are neither confirming nor denying the report, though it has been pointed out that Bush had formally agreed to comply with the Geneva Conventions.

Meanwhile, over in the Senate Intelligence Committee, a quiet revolution is occurring. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), appears to have effectively scuttled the nomination of John Rizzo for CIA general counsel. Wyden told the committee last month that he intended to block the nomination indefinitely due to Rizzo's stance on permitting enhanced interrogation techniques, i.e. torture, on terrorism detainees.

The committee has request withdrawal of Rizzo's name in order to avoid a formal negative vote out of respect to his long service to the agency.
(crossposted to [livejournal.com profile] ljdemocrats)
lurkitty: (Pogo)
As a migraineur, there are days that I am called upon to suck it up and leave the house despite the pain in my head. Because my preventatives are pretty successful, those days are, thankfully, few and far between. But when I have to, I leave wearing my trusty Chicago Cubs hat (the bright red "C" is the Universal sign of eternal optimism) and rhinestone encrusted sunglasses.

Curiously, it is not the sun that bothers me in the generally overcast Willamette Valley. It's the ever-present fluorescent lights, especially the ones that are flickering.

If some banks have their way, it would be against the law for me to wear my migraine armor into a bank. Now, granted, they have their reasons. Apparently, most bank robbers wear a hat and sunglasses, and the initiative is supposed to exclude people wearing hats and sunglasses for "religious or medical reasons". But how will that be determined? Frankly, I'd think that someone wearing a veil would more likely be targeted in today's atmosphere of profiling.

Why is it that we need a law when a bank or credit union can simply as a customer on its premises to remove the offending articles before serving them? So that banks don't have to risk losing customers by playing the heavy, forcing them to comply with a dress code. Banks want to blame it on the FBI! So you and I can risk getting arrested for wearing sunglasses and hats because some bank doesn't want to lose a customer.

That's real customer service for you! Don't ask people, arrest them!
lurkitty: (bunny waffle)
An 8-year-old girl watched in horror as a berserk llama attacked her mother, Terrebonne, Oregon resident Nancy Campbell, around 6pm Monday. according to a report in the Bend Bulletin.

The animal, suffering from "Berserk Llama Syndrome" had escaped its enclosure five days earlier. It attacked Campbell as she was jogging. She fought it off, then kept her body between the marauding beast and her daughter, whom she instructed to ride home on her bike.

No one was seriously injured, but it took five people to hold the 250 pound llama until the Humane society arrived. The animal was humanely euthanized.
lurkitty: (Pogo)
Russia has tested the "father of all bombs", touting it as the world's most powerful non-nuclear weapon.

The air-delivered vacuum bomb was tested on Sept. 11 and appears to be a response to the US "mother of all bombs" or Massive Ordinance Air Blast Bomb, tested last March. Russia's bomb, while technically carrying less explosive, is said to be more efficient, having a blast radius of twice that of MOAB and an epicenter temperature twice as high.

According to Bloomberg, The Russian Defense Ministry stated, "Russia isn't unleashing a new arms race," however last month, President Putin ended a 15-year suspension of strategic, long-range bomber patrols.
lurkitty: (Can't sleep cupcake)
You have to know that we have gone from a cash economy to plastic when the classic game Monopoly publishes a debit card version.
lurkitty: (maneki neko)
I promised pictures, and pictures you shall have!
Cut for pictures of the world's prettiest kitty )
lurkitty: (lolotters)
Wet, naked man arrested

This story earns lol credit for the fact that his wet nakedness had very little to do with the reason for his arrest (he was a suspect in a break-in).

Runner-up is from the "well, duh!" file:

Men want hot women, study confirms

We now return you to your regularly scheduled insanity.
lurkitty: (Default)
This NYT Op-Ed says what I would like to have said far more clearly. What goes on in the bathroom is not the problem.
lurkitty: (Pogo)
During the most recent LJ controversy, someone quite rightly noted that had the artists in question drawn underaged Harry, Draco and Weasleys being beheaded with chainsaws rather than in flagrante delicto, the art would still be in place. The offense never art depicting the abuse of children, but art depicting of the breaking of a taboo.

The news is filled with Republicans weighing in on the morality of Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig and whether or not he was soliciting sex in an airport bathroom. Democratic blogs and airwaves are jammed with cries of hypocrisy, especially since the rediscovery of this very juicy 1999 exchange between Craig and Tim Russert, where Craig repeatedly calls Clinton a bad and naughty boy.

Meanwhile, Republicans have countered with a head-spinning argument that somehow concludes that if we had had a moral president in office, instead of President Clinton, Mark Foley and Ted Haggart would not have lost their way. Not to be deterred, the Democrats have begun to call for a policy of confronting conservatives whenever they make extremely anti-homosexual statements with the fact that the most vehement detractors to date had turned out to be gay.

Lost in this whole debate are several issues:
-Why, in this day and age, are gay men still resorting to sex in bathrooms?
-Of all the crimes that occur at airports, why are police spending valuable time staking out bathrooms looking for men having sex?
-Are there as many police staking out airport bars looking for heterosexual couples sneaking off for a quickie? Are there guides to "bar pick up lines" that they can use to charge such offenders with lewd conduct in a public place?

The manner of Larry Craig's arrest smacks of nothing less than institutionalized homophobia. The real lessons of Larry Craig's arrest are that society needs to truly decriminalize homosexuality, dating while homosexual and homosexual sex. It doesn't mean that sex should be encouraged in public places, but it's hard to believe that a senator could not pay in cash for a cheap hotel room.

But then, there's that, "I'm not Gay," thing.
lurkitty: (fudog)
After a victory in the prolonged fight to force the VA to allow the Wiccan pentagram symbol to be used on graves of fallen soldiers, the widow who brought the suit that won that right was excluded from a meeting with President Bush in Northern Nevada.

Review-journal.com reports that Roberta Stewart was not invited to a meeting of families of fallen soldiers with the President, though other members of her family were there. Roberta Stewart is the only Wiccan member of the family.

The White House, once again, is showing their tendency to insulate the President against anyone who might possibly disagree with him. They will go to any length, even disrespecting the widow of a fallen soldier.
lurkitty: (geektoaster)
Some stories just scream stupid at the tops of their lungs.

The Seattle Times reports that a pharmacology professor, Daniel Storm, used an axe (hello! sparks!) to open 4 liters of metal containers of ethyl ether, a highly flammable solvent. He then poured the toxic, hazardous waste down the drains in his lab to avoid $15,000 in disposal costs.

For this, he was fined $5,000, was sentenced to probation, escaped with his life and is still employed by the UW.

For the record, UW has a chemical exchange program he could have used to pass the chemical on to a lab that could have used it for free.
lurkitty: (jane)
A mysterious fire partially burned the Man five days early last night during the total eclipse, according to reports in the Reno Gazette Journal and Wired.

The Green Man Pavilion was also damaged in the blaze. Flames were doused by fire crews as onlookers cheered. The Pavilion remains closed, and the Burning Man sculpture is being repaired.

One person was arrested in relation to the fire.
lurkitty: (geektoaster)
This one is worth seeing even if you'll be a bit groggy for work.

There's a total eclipse later tonight/tomorrow morning. Here's the NASA page with diagrams for all US time zones and GMT.

This will be one of the longest eclipses in years. The next will occur in February, then we won't see another total eclipse until Dec 2010.

Get out and look, folks!
lurkitty: (Default)
I moved about 400 lbs today.

I decided that I really want to get my car in my garage. In order to do that, I needed another cabinet. First, I pushed the freezer, which is about 200lbs, into the space that was once occupied by the spare refrigerator. That left a large space for a cabinet.

So I went to Home Depot (the only hardware store in town) and got a DIY cabinet. Two very nice (very pretty) boys helped me get this 200lb box into my Prius. After pushing and jockeying through three doors, I took off with the potential cabinet laying in my passenger seat, with "Tim" admonishing me to get the neighbor boys to help me get it out of the car.

I got it back home and, lo and behold, the neighborhood was deserted.

Pushing, pulling and prying by myself, I managed to work the thing out of my car. It was far too heavy to lug into the garage. So, I opened the box and shifted piece after piece into the garage.

I'll tackle assembly tomorrow when I have some energy.

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