Kafka and d'Annunzio, and the mysteries to be revealed in their former homes

There is something perverse and voyeuristic about visiting the private homes of famous people. Yet, as time goes by, I find the grand fame of public figures less interesting than their personal doings. I once visited the house where Kafka died, near Vienna. The barrenness of that sanatorium was so like the bareness and modesty of his existence, as opposed to Kafka's phantasmagoric, paranoiacally complex writing.

Next to Kafka's humble bed was a small door where one would have to bend one's head to enter: on a white sheet of paper, attached with clear tape, was written: "Kafka WC." Not being British, I had no idea what those mysterious letters meant. Read the rest

Acts of Journalism and the Espionage Act

Earlier this month, federal prosecutors filed a formal criminal complaint against Edward Snowden charging him with three felonies for leaking information about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs to Glenn Greenwald at the Guardian and Barton Gellman at the Washington Post. Two of those charges were filed under the 1917 Espionage Act.

Snowden is the seventh person the Obama administration has charged with violating the Espionage Act for leaking information to the press. Prior to 2008, only three other people had been charged with felonies under the Espionage Act for leaking documents.

Indeed, the first time the Espionage Act was applied to a whistleblower was in the case of Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971. Read the rest

LAX TSA officer shames my 15-year-old daughter for her outfit

This morning, a TSA officer at LAX humiliated and shamed my 15-year-old daughter. She is traveling with a group of high school students on a college tour and we were not with her when he verbally abused her.

Here's what happened, as my daughter described it in text messages to us: she was at the station where the TSA checks IDs. She said the officer was "glaring" at her and mumbling. She said, "Excuse me?" and he said, "You're only 15, COVER YOURSELF!" in a hostile tone. She said she was shaken up by his abusive manner.

I'm including the above photo of the outfit my daughter was wearing when the TSA officer shamed her. It doesn't matter what she was wearing, though, because it's none of his business to tell girls what they should or should not wear. His creepy thoughts are his own problem, and he shouldn't use his position of authority as an excuse to humiliate a girl and blame her for his sick attitude.

Our friend, Maureen Herman, dropped by our house today and we told her what happened. Maureen is the bass player for Babes in Toyland, the executive Director of Project Noise, and a co-founder of A is For, a women's rights advocacy group. She wrote the following response on Facebook, and it neatly sums up why this TSA officer's behavior is very wrong:

Absolutely inappropriate, harassing, aggressive, creepy, unprofessional, and Taliban-y thing that he did. "Cover up" is a dangerous cultural attitude that fuels more than rude comments.

Read the rest