Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Feral Genius Applies For A Government Job

No joke, people, and no exaggeration: that staff writing gig with the Department of Homeland Security I told you about yesterday offers a vastly higher salary and considerably better benefits than any writing or journalism job I personally have ever held. Minimum starting salary $62,000 per year! Maximum salary just a hairsbreadth below 100K! And a pension, and long paid vacations, and all sorts of health and dental insurance, too!

Not that I expect to be hired, but I’ve decided to apply for it anyway – thanks to the wonders of the internet, I can send off application letters and even entire clipfiles without having to pay any postage costs. I already have a resume tailored for writing/editing jobs in general, and wrote a cover letter for this one in particular. Here’s mine, and if you have any suggestions for improvement, please tell me in the comments. I really need/want this job:
My name is Jennifer Abel and I’d like to be the writer and editor you’re looking for with job announcement number FS-505757-SW11. As my attached resume indicates, I have ample experience in writing and editing; more importantly, I have ample experience dealing with angry clients, irate parents and other people with ruffled feathers in need of smoothing, and thus know how to defuse tense situations, a very important skill in making DHS/TSA practices palatable to the American public.

As a high school teacher, I assured many sets of parents that “Your child is destined for a happy, competent adulthood characterized by wise, intelligent decision-making, all thanks to your excellent helicopter parenting.” As an editor for a vanity publisher, I repeatedly tell authors “Your writing suggests you are neither functionally illiterate nor insane, and burning all the hard copies of your book and deleting all the computer files of it would be a very bad idea.” I once briefly worked for an ad agency where I convinced consumers “My client’s product is not worthless overpriced junk, but a useful bargain you should absolutely spend your money on.”

Ridiculous as these examples sound, I still convinced people to believe them. In other words, I’m very good at taking crap and convincing people it’s chocolate, and can surely convince travelers that being groped by government agents is perfectly compatible with life in a free country. I am also looking to replace “low-paid journalist” with a more respectable and stable career serving my government and my country, in that order, by working for the Department of Homeland Security. The ad for this job said “[Y]our services touch every US citizen,” and I personally am willing to touch as many US citizens, resident aliens and foreign tourists as necessary to make Janet Napolitano feel she has the whole “terrorism” thing safely under control.

I currently live in Connecticut but am willing to relocate to the Washington, DC area, and I can pass a drug test with only 30 days’ advance notice.

Thank you, and I look forward to discussing this position with you in greater detail.

Jennifer Abel

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Our Services Touch Every US Citizen"

Nobody in the government -- not the president, not Congress, neither Republicans nor Democrats -- is serious about solving the deficit, the debt ceiling or any of the other economic-flavored doom-causing problems out there; for all the meat and bone anyone cuts out of the budget, they'll leave the fat and gristle untouched. No money to fund the FAA, but plenty to expand TSA workforces to root around in travelers' underwear. No money to fix our country's crumbling infrastructure, but plenty to demolish the infrastructures of the other countries where we wage our Endless Wars.

Meanwhile, I remain poor by modern American socioeconomic income standards. Might I alleviate this and be personally enriched by some of the money government wastes on bullshit? It's possible! I'm still looking for a full-time staff writer position, and the Department of Homeland Security is hiring some and offering to pay them pretty well:

Job Title: Writer/Editor
Department: Department Of Homeland Security
Agency: National Protection and Programs Directorate
Job Announcement Number: FS-505757-SW11

SALARY RANGE: $62,467.00 - $97,333.00 /year

OPEN PERIOD:Monday, July 25, 2011 to Friday, August 05, 2011

SERIES & GRADE: GS-1082-11/12
POSITION INFORMATION: Full Time Career/Career Conditional
DUTY LOCATIONS: Few vacancies - Arlington, VA
WHO MAY BE CONSIDERED: US Citizens and Status Candidates

Secure the Homeland
Proud to Protect

Are you interested in a job where your primary purpose will be to write and edit materials, such as reports, inquiries from the White House, Congress, and the Government Accountability Office, news releases, and speeches.? Then consider joining the Office of Identity Services Branch, US-VISIT, National Protection and Programs Directorate, Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Come work with the best to prevent and deter terrorist attacks, protect against and respond to potential threats, ensure safe and secure borders, welcome immigrants and visitors, and promote the free-flow [sic] of commerce. This mission of the U. S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is carried out every day by the dedicated men and women who answer the noble calling of public service with courage and enthusiasm. With a diverse and critical mission, we lead the unified national effort to secure America. In today's interconnected world, our country's security challenges are constantly evolving. To meet these challenges, DHS fosters a culture that values and promotes diversity, teamwork, flexibility, and innovation.

In Headquarters, we coordinate, plan, and guide the Department's work across all DHS components. You could enjoy a career that includes research, administration and management, legal work, budget and finance, cyber security, infrastructure protection and intelligence analysis. Our services touch every U.S. citizen, and our goal is to secure our country across land and sea. Come join the team who is "Proud to Protect". APPLICATIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED FROM: All U.S. Citizens and Status Candidates.More than one selection may be made from this announcement should the need arise.

For new Federal employees, the starting salary will be at the Step 1 Grade selected (GS-11-$62,467; GS-12 - $74,872).

I wonder if that's the same pay Blogger Bob enjoys for his role as TSA's head of propaganda? More importantly, I wonder if I could do it?
Come work with the best to prevent and deter terrorist attacks, protect against and respond to potential threats, ensure safe and secure borders, welcome immigrants and visitors, and promote the free-flow of commerce.
Prevent and deter terrorist attacks? Then-President George W. Bush said the terrorists attacked us because they hate freedom; DHS is certainly removing that motivation, and if I worked for them, I'd be helping.

Protect against and respond to potential threats? If that means "mistreat everyone who travels anywhere in America," DHS continues doing a bang-up job and as their staff writer, I would repeatedly say so.

Ensure safe and secure borders? I personally would not tote a gun and play target practice on the border; I'd write justifications for those who did. If the TSA blog is any indication, I wouldn't even be required to tell the truth; I could tell outright lies, so long as it makes my masters look good. "There are no children on the No-Fly List." "Our immigration policy is totally humane." "The problems in Mexico are in no way the fault of US drug policy and DEA meddling."

As a journalist, I know "making shit up" is much easier than "finding and telling the truth"; an article that could take all week to write if I had to read documents and talk to witnesses could be done in less than an hour if I only had to consult the reference library stored between the cheeks of my ass. Finding proof of government wrongdoing might sometimes take awhile, but telling fairy tales where such wrongdoing doesn't exist is a snap.

Welcome immigrants and visitors? If by "welcome" you mean "confiscate their electronics and subject their bodies to intimate genital searches considered human-rights violations in other countries," DHS again does a bang-up job, which I'd have to justify.

Promote the free flow of commerce? For all the indignities TSA inflicts on passengers they still don't check cargo, so I suppose there's that.

Our services touch every U.S. citizen. Yeah. That's pretty much the problem.

But I really need a job. Or a benefactor willing to give me regular sums of money for doing basically nothing. If I work for the government I could have both at once. All I need to do is find a friendly and not entirely ethical brain surgeon to lobotomize my conscience and empathy circuits first. Except I don't have enough health insurance for that, so rather than apply for this respectable middle-class writing position, I'll continue editing vanity novels and envying Japanese fetish artists. At least that way I keep my self-respect.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

“Jennifer’s Law” and the Terrors of Terrorism

I look at the Norwegian government with a twinge of envy, wishing my own showed the same sensible restraint. The terrorist attack in Norway yesterday was monstrous – 92 confirmed dead as I type this, and the number might rise higher – but today, Norway’s prime minister said the country will not raise its terrorist “threat level” over this.

Norway understands what the United States refuses to admit: isolated freak incidents happen, and perfect safety from them is impossible, but you don’t throw out every ideal your country once stood for the first time you suffer an anomaly. Of course, Norway’s government has not embarked on a ten-year-long spree of seeking out excuses to take away the legal rights of its citizens, either.

I’m typing this in my apartment, near a window. That window, like almost every window in every private home in America, is made of ordinary rather than bulletproof glass. And as I look through the window onto the street, I know it’s perfectly possible for someone standing in that street to look back at me, and even aim a rifle through my window, and shoot and kill me.

This hypothetical psychopath wishing to harm me wouldn’t even need a gun; a guy with a big enough rock could lob it through my window and cause major damage. If the rock itself didn’t hurt me, the broken window’s various sharp shards of glass might.

Should I live with this threat, or eradicate it by any means necessary? It’s unlikely but not impossible; it’s surely happened already, somewhere in the United States. With a population of over 320 million, even a one-in-a-million event will happen somewhere in this country 320 times this year. And I’d bet money that somewhere in the US, people have been killed in their own homes after a bullet or other projectile flew through their closed window.

Suppose it happened here. Now. To me. Some freak walks down my street shooting through windows, kills me, maims the guy next door, blinds a child in the next house over, and kills three more people on my street before finally turning the gun on himself.

In Norway, the prime minister would view this as the freak crime it is. In the United States, the government would raise the terrorist threat level, and Janet Napolitano would have TSA guards in residential neighborhoods giving genital patdowns to passing pedestrians to ensure they had nothing capable of breaking windows hidden in their underwear, and pandering congressmen with support from the glaziers’ lobby would argue for the passage of “Jennifer’s Law” mandating all residential windows be made of bulletproof safety glass. (The law would be named after me rather than any of the other three people who died in the shooting spree because I am – was – a cute white female, whereas the other three victims were males. Or minorities. Or ugly, or something. They weren't cute white females, so who cares?)

My fellow Americans, we must remember what Norway forgot: the purpose of terrorist acts, by definition, is to make people feel “terrified,” and it is our patriotic duty to help the terrorists win by allowing pants-soiling terror to shape our legal and our thought processes. Why is Norway’s prime minister letting this opportunity slip through his fingers? It’s almost like the Norwegian government thinks “a free country” is too worthwhile an ideal to toss out their non-bulletproof window.

Friday, July 22, 2011


So what happens in the short run (August 2, to be specific) if the debt limit is not raised? What happens in the long run if the debt limit is? How long can a nation continue spending more than it earns? Here’s my answer:
Imagine we’re discussing this in person, in the same room. I’m huddled in a dim corner (dim despite the full daylight outside, as I have all curtains drawn and blinds closed against the record-breaking heat and humidity smothering my corner of New England today). Imagine my eyes gone wide and vacant with a thousand-yard stare, fixed on some unseen distant thing far beyond the opaque walls of my apartment. Imagine my voice barely audible over the hum of multiple fans and window-unit air conditioners.

I can’t make any predictions about the economy, nor even discuss it. I’ve gone catatonic.

Listen: I’m a Generation Xer who’s now spent more than half my life hearing “your generation is the first in American history to be worse off than your parents.” I’ve heard for years that I might not get back the money Social Security regularly extorts from my meager paychecks, which made glum sense to me but I never actually sat down to work out the specifics: At what point between today and my sixty- or seventy-somethingth birthday do I expect the SS checks to stop?

Trick question, because I never seriously expected Social Security to vanish; I just figured inflation would render its payments worthless. So I’m not particularly worried that the feds will quit paying pension obligations and other bills next month.

But that’s not a position I could defend in an intellectual debate; it’s more a matter of “I can’t bring myself to believe it.” Of course, I have a hard time believing anything that’s happened this past year or two. Seriously: I finally, finally have time and money enough where I could actually visit Europe, but my own government in the guise of “protecting” me says I can’t fly there unless I let some anonymous TSA drone in latex gloves feel the contours of my labia through my underwear? When I worked strip clubs in college, I’d have been arrested for prostitution if I let anyone touch me like that. How did my government come to make mandatory the same behavior that’s otherwise illegal between consenting adults?

Everything feels so surreal already, with the debate over the debt just one more clock melting in an improbably detailed landscape. I can’t see how the level of debt we have is remotely close to sustainable. We can’t spend money we don’t have every year; there seems to be this fiction that US debt is the kind of debt that never, ever needs to be repaid, let alone repaid with interest. We can’t keep doing this and yet we can’t stop.

I recently read some 1980s-era books about the USSR (books with titles like Time/Life Books Library of Nations: The Soviet Union) and of course, when I read them I had an advantage the writers lacked: sure knowledge the country would collapse five years later.

One book dedicated a chapter or two to the then-new premier, Gorbachev, who wanted to promote reforms and make the Soviet Union, in his words, “more moral.” In other words, less cruel, less likely to kill you and your whole family should you complain about getting rancid meat after waiting in line three hours; similar, perhaps, to what the first President George Bush a few years later called “a kinder, gentler nation.”

A few years after Gorbachev said this, the USSR collapsed overnight. Why? Well, the most obvious reason is that they plain ran out of money—literally, no cash reserves of hard currency.

And yet, despite being flat broke, I think the Communists could’ve held power had they really wanted to – say, with someone amoral and ruthless like Stalin at the helm. The USSR did not die merely because it ran out of money; it died because Gorbachev wasn’t willing to kill however many people it took to maintain the fiction that the country worked. One article I read about the fall of the Soviet Union specifically mentioned food; the country’s crops that year weren’t enough to feed its people, and the government did not have enough money to import grain from overseas.

Gorbachev wasn’t willing to see millions die in a famine. Stalin engineered a famine to wipe out people he didn’t like.

What has any of this to do with the United States today? I don’t think Obama – or any of the leading Republicans or Democrats in Congress – takes the Gorbachevian view “Our government should be kinder to its citizens than it used to be.” No, quite the opposite: Obama, far more than Bush/Cheney before him, actively works to make this country harsher, meaner, more punitive towards its own people, and neither Republicans nor Democrats do a damn thing to stop him. Indeed, if you do hear the word “moral” coming from a Republican, it’s only as an excuse to punish someone with a sex life he doesn’t like, and from a Democrat to criticize someone who smokes or eats too much. Our country grows meaner and less moral by the day: yes to torture, to hell with the fourth amendment, sexual assault is a precondition of modern travel, bombing civilians is perfectly fine, et cetera. And I can’t predict how things will turn out, anymore than I can predict how a hallucinating schizophrenic will react to any stimuli.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Psychopathic Quote Of The Day

As if there aren't enough reasons to fear for the future of our country, universities like Stanford are actively warping the Leaders of Tomorrow with some disturbing views of sex today.

Tim Cavanaugh at Reason Hit and Run has a good run-down of the basic travesty:
A Stanford University student accused of sexual assault in an incident that the Palo Alto police and prosecutor investigated and declined to pursue nevertheless was convicted by a student court under relaxed evidence standards introduced by U.S. Department of Education.

In the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post, Princeton alumna Samantha Harris reports that the student court – which I guess is what you would get if you replaced kangaroos with students in a kangaroo court – changed its standard mid-trial, in response to a letter from Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR):

At the time the student was charged, Stanford was using the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard -- the highest standard of proof, used by courts in criminal cases. But after OCR's letter, Stanford shifted to the "preponderance" standard in the middle of his case.

Plus, the campus panel that heard the case had been "trained" using documents boldly proclaiming that "everyone should be very, very cautious in accepting a man's claim that he has been wrongly accused of abuse or violence" and that one indication of an abuser is that he will "act persuasive and logical."

Perhaps the Stanford student acted too logically: He was promptly found guilty and suspended for two years. But because the OCR's letter forces colleges to permit the accuser to appeal the decision if the accused may do so, she has appealed and is seeking permanent expulsion of her alleged attacker.

Being logical and persuasive indicates somebody is an abuser? Bullshit! (I say that rather than a logical, persuasive argument lest anyone accuse me of being abusive.)

If I were a male enrolled at Stanford I'd transfer out as fast as possible. But Stanford student blogger Uncle Ruckus -- I mean, Peter "Shotgun" McDonald (that's how his name appears on his author archive page) -- argues on The Unofficial Stanford Blog that since rape victims were often disbelieved in the bad old days, "innocent until proven guilty" should not apply to men accused of rape today:
In most sexual assault cases, there’s pretty much only one piece of evidence that proves guilt beyond a shadow of a doubt: bruises. Often times, rapists aren’t so courteous. So it’s her word against his, in a society that is none too afraid to call women lying bitches when they act in ways that are displeasing to powerful men, and in a society where stories about attempted rape are auto-tuned and gleefully offered up as the latest Internet meme. For sexual assault victims that aren’t blonde-haired, blue-eyed, and still had their hymen in tact, the system’s kind of set up against them. But none of that matters because “INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY.” I’m pretty sure the people who developed that concept never had to worry about being the victim of sexual assault. [italics added]
Is Peter "Shotgun" McDonald seriously suggesting the veracity of a given statement varies depending on the shape of the genitalia of whoever uttered it? Pete also agrees with Reagan appointee Ed Meese that people accused of crimes don't need too many rights because (to quote Meese) "If a person is innocent of a crime, then he is not a suspect":

The old Standard of Proof was not working, it needed to be changed. If the new Standard of Proof bothers you, there’s an easy solution: don’t sexually assault people.
So if you're accused, does that automatically mean you're guilty? Not necessarily; turns out Peter "Shotgun" McDonald does concede that men can be falsely accused of sexual assault. But Peter says the victims were all asking for it:
If you carry the world view that false sexual assault allegations are commonplace, then don’t do anything that would make a woman want to file one against you. They don’t just come out of the blue. Think about cutting down on sex with blackout strangers. Maybe reduce the number of sexist insults you use whenever you get in an argument with a romantic attachment. Call your friends out when they do the same.
Try applying McDonald's logic to women worried about being sexually assaulted: "Don't do anything that would make a man want to assault you. Attacks don't just come out of the blue."

As a woman -- a member of that half of humanity whose interests McDonald thinks he's championing -- I can only hope Pete's just trolling. Because, surely, he can't sincerely believe "Women sometimes behave like sociopaths, but men just have to expect that, and know not to trigger it," right? Nobody can actually be stupid enough to believe "That guy falsely imprisoned and charged with rape? Serves him right for being insulting."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Fat And Happy Mob

Though I refuse to link to any of them, there's a slew of online petitions signed by constitutionally illiterate Americans who wish to "retry Casey Anthony" because they dislike the verdict from her first trial. Of course, the constitution's fifth amendment bans re-trying a defendant because you didn't like the first verdict; among other things, it says "nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb." That clause was done primarily to prevent an out-of-control government (or judicial lynch mob) from jury-shopping, trying the same defendant over and over and over again until somebody, somewhere, agrees to find said defendant guilty.

Conventional wisdom says "Civilization is only three missed meals away from mob rule." Nancy Grace fans and the signers of those anti-Anthony petitions say "Why wait to skip three meals first? Lynching's no fun on an empty stomach."

Friday, July 15, 2011

Americans and TSA: A Call For Sacrifice

As usual, there's plenty of new TSA outrage stories I could link to if I wished, but I won't bother today. Let me get right to the point: I know that simply saying "Do not fly" is turning into a cliche, but dammit, people, if you don't like seeing yourselves and your loved ones mistreated by the TSA, do not fly! It really is that simple.

Sometimes liberty requires sacrifice, though it's easy for contemporary Americans to forget that, especially middle-class-or-better Americans, given how cushy we've had it compared to the overwhelming majority of humans who are or ever have been alive.

And we are still lucky, because liberty today requires such a small sacrifice, compared to sacrifices made by Americans past! Seriously, my fellow Americans: if you want yourselves and your descendants to live in freedom, you need not risk maiming or death, by taking up arms against an oppressive army. You don't have to abandon your family, friends, credentials and all worldly possessions to escape from behind the Iron or Bamboo curtains. You don't have to face an angry southern lynch mob armed with dogs and fire hoses to deny you "free and fully human" status. All you have to do is not fly.

Yet so many refuse to even consider this! "I don't like the idea of my kids being groped by the TSA, but how else can I get them to Disney World? It's too far to drive."

OLD AMERICANS: Give me liberty or give me death!

NEW AMERICANS: I'll put up with anything, if my kid can shake hands with Mickey Mouse.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Andrea Abbott's Arrest: Sanity's Illegal In An Insane Country

"I don't want someone to see my naked body." That is now considered a "belligerent statement" in the United States of America, belligerent enough to get you arrested.

Andrea Abbott was arrested in Nashville for being "belligerent and verbally abusive" because she didn't want a TSA agent to feel her daughter's genitalia through her clothing. Here's what the story has to say:
A 41-year-old Clarksville woman was arrested after Nashville airport authorities say she was belligerent and verbally abusive to security officers, refusing for her daughter to be patted down at a security checkpoint.

Andrea Fornella Abbott yelled and swore at Transportation Security Administration agents Saturday afternoon at Nashville International Airport, saying she did not want her daughter to be “touched inappropriately or have her “crotch grabbed,” a police report states.

After the woman refused to calm down, airport police said, she was charged with disorderly conduct and taken to jail. She has been released on bond.

Attempts to reach Abbott on Tuesday were unsuccessful. The report does not list her daughter’s age. The mother and daughter were traveling from Nashville to Baltimore on Southwest Airlines.

“(She) told me in a very stern voice with quite a bit of attitude that they were not going through that X-ray,” Sabrina Birge, an airport security officer, told police.

“No, it’s not an X-ray,” she told Abbott. “It is 10,000 times safer than your cell phone and uses the same type of radio waves as a sonogram.”

Airport security officer Sabrina Birge is clearly an ignoramus; sonograms use sound waves, not radio. And what has happened to my formerly free country, when not wanting your crotch grabbed is now worthy of a police report? When not wanting strangers to see you naked means you have an "attitude?" When having an "attitude" is grounds for arrest?

This is why I refuse to fly in America, so long as flying requires I submit to being fondled by thugs in blue latex gloves (or any other color, for that matter). Being impolite to crotch-grabbing kiddie diddlers in an airport is now grounds for arrest; indeed, I'd guess merely calling them "crotch-grabbing kiddie diddlers" is grounds for that.

That's one sign of a non-free country: when lese majeste becomes a felony. Remember, America: it's not enough to let TSA agents grab your crotch; you have to pretend you don't mind.

Childhood flashback -- Airport security officer Sabrina Birge, aged nine or so, playing pranks on her friends: "Hey, your epidermis is showing!" {Laughs at embarrassed classmate, as latter frantically checks pants and other areas in search of embarrassing rips} "Ha ha! The stupid dork doesn't realize epidermis means your eyeballs."

Americans and TSA: A Call For Sacrifice

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Regarding The Whole Casey Anthony Thing

I do not condone the killing of toddlers, especially not cute ones, but anything that makes Nancy Grace so pissed off must have something going for it. And if Grace and a certain few I know in real life work themselves into a fatal stroke or aneurysm over this -- hope springs eternal -- I'm getting a sex-change operation and converting to Catholicism solely so I can work my way up to Pope and nominate Casey Anthony for sainthood.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

TSA And the Silicone Threat: I Told You So

Your Humble Blogress' blog post from September 9, 2006:
Why hasn’t some enterprising terrorist outfitted a flat-chested female suicide bomber with plastic-explosive breast implants yet? The beauty of a plan like that (from a villainous mastermind perspective) is, even if the plot fails in the sense that the bombs are discovered before they can be set off, it will be a success in terms of terrorizing the population. Consider: the infidel government has already banned certain foods and all beverages, toothpastes, hair-styling products, and anything else that might theoretically be an explosive in disguise. If the government discovered an implant plot, its overreaction would do more to disrupt American air travel than detonating a nuke at O'Hare.
Today, the TSA has decided that's a threat worth fearing:
The government has warned airlines that terrorists are considering surgically implanting explosives into people in an attempt to circumvent screening procedures, according to U.S. officials.

There is no indication of an immediate plot, but the new information could lead to additional screening procedures at the nation’s airports. Existing scanners would not necessarily detect bombs implanted under a person’s skin, experts said.
I can no longer make jokes about TSA cavity searches and the like, for the same reason I can't make jokes about how, come December, I'll probably have the heat rather than the air-conditioning on in my apartment: because there's nothing funny about a straightforward prediction/observation.

My country has gone absolutely, spectacularly, stark-raving mad, assaulting law-abiding travelers under the guise of protecting them.

Monday, July 04, 2011

July 4 Anniversaries

I know, I know, I’m in danger of turning into a one-trick pony; my blog, which started over five years ago as a catchall discussion of any social, sexual or political topic which caught my interest, now seems to be all TSA all the time.

Still, better a one-trick pony than a horse’s ass, and the latter is what I’d be if I celebrated such illusory concepts as “freedom” while simultaneously knowing “I finally have enough money to take a really good vacation, I can even afford to see Europe for the first time firsthand, but I’m not allowed to fly unless some government agent first looks at or touches my genitalia.” Yet few of my fellow Americans are outraged by this; if anything, I’m considered rude, or possibly hyperbolic, for pointing this out.

Fine. If I can’t celebrate “freedom” this July 4, I will instead celebrate the anniversary of the first time Your Humble Blogress Here ever got published. As a child, YHBH spent every summer enrolled in a "Young Writers" summer day camp sponsored by the city school district. I have many fond memories of those programs, though I don’t specifically recall pooping out any patriotic poetry as July 4 approached, when I was nine years old. Still, I know I produced at least one pro-America poem that summer – doubtless written in my absolute-best Magic Markered handwriting, on colored construction paper decorated with red, white and blue glitter – and the first of the poem’s three stanzas read:

The Fourth of July is a symbol
of the red, white and blue
the three dear colors
of the land of the true.

Some two years after I composed that little masterpiece, on Fourth of July when I was eleven, my mother suddenly started yelling, “Jennifer, you're in the paper!” Sure enough, the newspaper my family subscribed to in those primitive pre-internet days had a special holiday insert section, an insert filled with patriotic prose, poetry and pictures by local schoolchildren, including a three-stanza ode to the Fourth of July printed over the words “JENNIFER ABEL, age 9.”

One line of the poem, obviously alluding to our national flag, mentioned “Fifty stars and thirteen strips.” Even though my 11-year-old self had no memory of writing the poem two years earlier, she indignantly insisted someone at the newspaper must have made a mistake, because even at age nine I’d known the difference between “strips” and “stripes” (though had no idea I’d do the former, nine years hence).

I read the poem with the maturity and sophistication I had at aged eleven-going-on-twelve and, even overlooking the strip-stripe typo, was utterly horrified by this reminder of how childish and simplistic my writing and thoughts had been back during my single-digit years, twenty-four months previous. And it didn’t help that my mother called all our relatives to tell them “Jennifer’s in the paper!”, then called all the neighbors and asked them to save their Fourth of July inserts for her because “Jennifer’s in the paper!”

Fourth of July, personal milestone, childhood trauma ... all the same to me. So maybe it’s fitting that YHBH started out writing shiny pro-America poems on July 4 and now spends the holiday planning ways to enrich foreign airline companies in lieu of my own countrymen, since the easiest way for me to simultaneously visit Europe and avoid being molested by the TSA involves my first traveling to an airport in French Canada.

So be it. Any given TSA agent can certainly kiss my ass, but otherwise may not touch it.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Another Tenuous "Security" Connection

So: a tractor-trailer truck hit an Amtrak train at a crossing, and Homeland Security is using that as an excuse to argue that passengers on trains should be required to list their names with a government registry first. Actual story headline on the Reno news site: Amtrak train wreck reveals security weakness. And the "weakness" in the story is not "Oh, dear, trains cross roadways and might be hit by trucks"; it's "Oh, no, we don't know the name of every single passenger on the train at all times."

Actual quote from the story: "In the years following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, airline security became increasingly tight, but Amtrak remains unable to even identify who is on its trains at any given moment."

Because heaven forbid the government not know exactly who's in transit at any given moment.
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