How the coronavirus response reveals the arbitrary bullshit of so many US policies

Over at Slate, Dan Kois offers an incisive look at the status quo frustrations that have long affected daily American life — and how they're now disappearing, because we're in a crisis. To some people, this will of course conform to their aspirational perspective of the country: that the American system has always been great and good, and the fact that people (and corporations) do good deeds in times of crisis is proof that free market capitalism is perfect and thus good.

But what if we always offered paid sick leave to hourly employees? What if the Internet wasn't throttled by providers eager to make another quick buck? What if we never had to deal with the arbitrary airline limits on liquids, just to reinforce the TSA security theatre performance?

What if kindness and empathy were the rule, and not the exception?

Up until now activists and customers have been meant to believe that the powers that be could never change these policies—it would be too expensive, or too unwieldy, or would simply upset the way things are done. But now, faced suddenly with an environment in which we’re all supposed to at least appear to be focused on the common good, the rule-makers have decided it’s OK to suspend them. It’s a crisis, after all. Everyone’s got to do their part.

[…]

But it’s also worth asking if we are willing to allow governments and corporations to return to business as usual. When everything’s back to normal, will we accept cities cutting off their poorest residents’ water, or evicting the sick, or throwing someone in jail because they can’t afford to pay a fine?

Read the rest

Woman says TSA officer groped and threatened her during a groin search

A woman is suing the TSA after she was groped and threatened by one of its officers, according to a lawsuit recently filed against the TSA. The assault occurred at Asheville Regional Airport in North Carolina, according to the suit and as reported by CNN.

After the woman went through the scanner, an officer told her she had to submit to a groin search. The woman told the officer she wouldn't consent to having her genitals touched, and the officer assured her that the search would not require that. But things took a turn for the worse, according to CNN:

But the search deviated from normal search protocol in several ways, according to the lawsuit.

First, the officer "insisted" the woman spread her legs wider than the footprints on the mat below her indicated, the lawsuit said, providing surveillance images showing the traveler's feet wider than the mat's footprints.

The officer then slid her hands up the woman's legs but moved her hands inside her shorts to make direct contact with her genitals, according to the lawsuit. As she began to slide her hands up her legs, the officer commented that the shorts the woman was wearing were particularly short, the lawsuit said.

...

The woman flinched as the officer's hand made contact with her genitals, according to the lawsuit, to which the officer replied, "if you resist, I will do this again." The lawsuit says TSA policy does not permit such threats.

Image: CNN Read the rest

TSA officer arrested for coercing a woman into showing her breasts

A former TSA officer, Johnathon Lomeli (22), has been charged with ordering a woman at LAX to show him her breasts by telling her it was for security reasons, reports the Associated Press. Lomeli is alleged to have asked the woman to pull back the top of her shirt so could he look at her bra, and to pull the waist of her pants from her body. He then allegedly told the woman he had to take her to a private room for additional screening, but when they got into the elevator he told the woman he was going to search her there. The woman said Lomeli told her “to show me your full breasts” and looked down her pants. He then told the woman she had nice breasts and that she was free to go.

Image: by U.S. Federal Government - http://www.tsa.gov/index.shtm, Public Domain, Link Read the rest

US Customs destroys the instrument of renowned Mali musician Ballaké Sissoko

This is so heartbreaking. Ballaké Sissoko, the highly-acclaimed African musician from Mali, claims that US Customs officials destroyed his custom-made, irreplaceable kora instrument. He arrived back in Paris after a US tour to find his beloved instrument in pieces, with one of those all-too-familiar TSA notices in the case.

Posted by Ballake Sissoko on Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Here is a 2011 performance of Ballaké (with Vincent Segal) on All Songs Considered.

Image: Post on Ballaké Sissoko's Facebook page. Read the rest

TSA officer grabbed Native American woman's braids, snapped them and said "Giddy up!"

Tara Houska, an attorney and Indigenous rights activist, was going through TSA security at Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport when a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) told Houska she would need to have her braids patted down as a security precaution, reports Fox News.

"She pulled them behind my shoulders, laughed [and] said ‘giddy up!’ as she snapped my braids like reins," Houska said on Twitter. "My hair is part of my spirit. I am a Native woman. I am angry, humiliated. Your 'fun' hurt."

When Houska informed the agent that her actions were dehumanizing and disrespectful, the agent explained that she was having "fun."

Federal Security Director Cliff Van Leuven sais Houska's description of the incident was accurate. From Fox News:

"Did it actually happen? Yes. Exactly as described? Yes," Federal Security Director Cliff Van Leuven said, per KARE 11. "I apologized for how she was treated during the screening of her braids — and we had a very pleasant conversation.

“She reiterated that she doesn't want the Officer to get in trouble, but she is hoping we'll take the chance to continue to educate our staff about the many Native American Tribes/Bands in our state and region to better understand their culture,” Van Leuven added.

Read the rest

Woman whose vulva was probed by Burbank TSA "officers" who ignored her refusal sues

Last September, Jessica Lundquist passed through a body-scanner at Burbank airport and was told by a TSA screener that they wanted to conduct a "groin search" on her. Read the rest

TSA confiscated this toilet paper roller shaped like a gun

What was the traveler who carried this gun-shaped toilet paper roller thinking? On every level, seriously, what were they thinking. Read the rest

US to require air travelers to show 'gold star' at airports in order to fly

Starting next year you won't be able to board a plane without REAL ID.

The TSA strip searched a grandmother on Mother's Day and now says that she's overreacting because it's no different from a locker room

Last Mother's Day, grandmother Rhonda Mengert was subjected to a pat-down search at Tulsa airport, wherein a TSA agent felt a panty-liner in her underwear; she was then forced to strip down and show her panty-liner to a female TSA agent. Naturally, she filed suit against the TSA. Read the rest

Toddler jumps on airport conveyor belt, is conveyed to bag room

Hilarity fading to horror, like everything else on the internet. NBC News reports minor injuries for the little boy who found his way into ATL's bowels.

The small boy walked away from his mother at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport while she attempted to print out her boarding pass at a kiosk, according to an Atlanta police report. The mother told police she looked away from her son "for one second" and he disappeared. ... Eventually the boy reached a Transportation Security Administration baggage area where TSA immediately noticed him come through on the belt and a man picks him up off the belt and to safety. Emergency medical services treated the boy for a "severely swollen and bruised" right hand before he was transported to a hospital, according to the Atlanta police report.

Read the rest

A grandmother is suing the TSA for strip searching her to get a look at her panty liner, on Mother's Day

Back in 2012, Jon Corbett made headlines by showing that he could easily get metal through TSA checkpoints' full-body pornoscanners: his experiences fighting the TSA convinced him to get his law license and hang out a shingle, and now he has his first client: Rhonda Mengert, a grandmother who was illegally strip-searched by the Tulsa TSA because they felt a panty-liner when they patted down her crotch. On Mother's Day. Read the rest

TSA admits that its pornoscanners flag Black women and others with curly hair for humiliating, invasive searches

Black women have long complained that they get flagged for secondary screening at TSA checkpoints after passing through a full-body scanner; after years of complaints, the TSA has admitted that its scanners struggle to with curled hair, and are prone to flagging anyone wearing an afro, twists, locks, braids, or other hairstyles predominantly found among Black travelers (though white travelers with long curly hair have also reported being flagged for secondary screening). Read the rest

TSA finds military rocket-propelled grenade launcher in Florida man's luggage

It was non-functioning.

More than 1,000 TSA workers still waiting for their paycheck after Trump government shutdown

“It appears as though their effort to partially pay people screwed things up and they are still getting their act together.” — Anonymous TSA official who spoke to CNN

Trump's shutdown: LaGuardia shut, Philadelphia and Newark airports limping

LaGuardia is closed and PHL and Newark are facing major delays because there aren't enough TSA workers willing to work without pay to keep them open. I'm supposed to be flying from Burbank to Oakland today for the Grand Reopening of the Public Domain at the Internet Archive and I'm getting really nervous. Read the rest

TSA agents, unpaid for 30 days, are blasting explicit hip-hop in airport terminals

Say you work at the government agency with the lowest morale of any Fed job and then Cheeto Hitler decides to treat you like a casino contractor and not pay you, for thirty days, and recommends that you do chores for your landlord to stop from getting evicted -- what do you do? Get musical: playing Sicko Mode or No Sleep Til Brookly or Misery Business or perhaps the theme from Halloween? (via Reddit) Read the rest

Man with a gun in his carry-on bag slips by TSA and flies from Georgia to Tokyo

A man carrying a firearm in his carry-on luggage got past the TSA screeners at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and flew with it to Narita International Airport on January 3. This occurred during the government shutdown, after "hundreds of TSA agents from at least four major airports had called in sick," according to CNN.

The man, flying on Delta Airlines, had apparently forgotten that the gun was in his bag. Once he remembered he was carrying it, he informed Delta, who then reported it to TSA. It's not clear when the passenger disclosed this information to Delta.

Via CNN:

"TSA has determined standard procedures were not followed and a passenger did in fact pass through a standard screening TSA checkpoint with a firearm at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on the morning of January 3," the release states.

The security breach came two weeks into the government shutdown, during which TSA agents have been required to work but have not received paychecks. CNN first reported on January 4 -- a day after the breach -- that hundreds of TSA agents from at least four major airports had called in sick.

TSA, however, denies that the shutdown had anything to do with their security lapse, claims that they were completely staffed that day, and states that they will "hold those responsible appropriately accountable."

Image: US Department of Homeland Security/Flickr Read the rest

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