Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Minister Has Been Away

The Minister has been away in Miami Beach, Florida. He was invited to speak at The Wolfsonian Museum and the Miami Ad School about the subject of Propaganda and the Propaganda Research Project.

The Miami Ad School students were an amazing audience. They laughed where they were supposed to and asked a lot of questions afterwards. Hell, they even sat still, long after the Minister accidentally went over his time limit. The presentation that night involved the various types of Propaganda, how to see through them, and then some examples of the Minister's own Propaganda. The Minister kicked himself later for not speaking about fonts, the care he uses to replicate old 40's fonts, and the difficulty involved with picking a replacement font when the original is not available (or was hand-drawn). The Minister will make up for that next time.

The Wolfsonian audience was kept low due to a ferocious rainstorm which raged for two hours prior to the event. Still, for the 20 or so who turned out, a good time was had by all. The presentation on that night focused on the Bush Administration's attempts to propagandize the American citizenry through the use of subliminal signage and religious imagery in official press photographs, followed by a historical examination of the President's term in office as told through the Minister's propaganda pieces.

The Minister's favorite attendee at the Wolfsonian was the beefy white man, mid-40's with a crew-cut blocked three inches above the collar of his tweed coat, who was sitting in the audience taking notes on a clipboard. Afterwards the Minister ran into the man in the hallway and thanked him for coming to the event:

The Minister of Propaganda: "Hi, thanks for coming out. Oh, hey, I saw you taking notes... You're not with Homeland Security, are you?"

Sinister Man In Tweed: "See you in Gitmo, Kid!"

The Minister of Propaganda: "Ha ha... huh?"

For the rest of the evening, the Minister signed all books like this: "Dear __________, You're a traitor for owning this book. See you in Gitmo, Kid!"

The Minister has no idea if the crew-cut was indeed a military snitch, but the stories in the paper the next day where the ACLU once again proved that the Pentagon is spying on non-violent anti-war protestors like it was 1972 all over again didn't ease the mind.

Oh, and the Minister's bags were searched both when flying to Miami and flying home to Los Angeles. Probably because of the high incidence of published authors/anti-war activists who have joined Al Qaeda and blown up airplanes, right? Polite notecards were even left in the Minister's bags by the TSA, informing him of the search. That wasn't necessary though: the Minister always knows when his bags have been searched because they're the first ones off of the baggage carousel. Why, it's so convenient that it's almost worth surrendering your civil liberties for!

This marks the 19th and 20th consecutive times that the Minister's bags have been searched. Simple probability math results in a box set showing that the odds of this happening at random are approximately 1 in a few billion.

Lest you sneer and delcare that the Minister is suffering from delusions of grandeur, reflect for a moment on the fact that the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York City wrote the text for the Minister's first book of posters. Then reflect on the fact that Barbara Olshansky, assistant legal director of the CCR in New York, reports that she has been stopped and searched every time she has flown since 9/11. On several of those occasions, she was forced to pull down her pants in view of other travelers. On one flight in 2002, six members of the CCR's staff, including Olshansky, were stopped and subjected to intense scrutiny, even though they had purchased their tickets independently and had not checked in as a group. On that occasion, Olshansky got angry and demanded to know why she had been singled out. The airline agent at the gate threatened to bar her from the plane if she raised a fuss and added brusquely, “The computer spit you out. I don’t know why, and I don’t have time to talk to you about it.”

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is authorized by law to maintain watch lists of names of individuals suspected of posing "a risk of air piracy or terrorism or a threat to airline or passenger safety." While initially denying to the media that such a list existed, the TSA finally acknowledged the No-Fly List's existence in October 2002. In December of 2002, the Electronic Privacy and Information Center (EPIC) sued the TSA and DHS to force them to reveal details of the No-Fly List and any evidence of the suspected "Hassle When Flying" List.

The documents obtained by EPIC establish that the TSA administers two lists: a "No Fly" list and a "Selectee" list, which requires the passenger to go through additional security measures. The names are provided to air carriers through any number of local and federal police agencies and are stored in their computer systems so that an individual with a name that matches the list can be flagged when getting a boarding pass. A TSA "No Fly List" name match requires the agent to call a law enforcement officer to detain and question the passenger. In the case of a Selectee, an "S" or special mark is printed on their boarding pass and the person receives additional screening at security. The TSA has withheld the number of names on each of the lists. The TSA has also withheld information about any existing approval process for putting citizens on the lists. Nor will the TSA reveal who (if anyone) verifies that the names are selected appropriately and whether the information is accurate. Nor does the TSA have a centralized standardized way to challenge or remove your name from either list.

In other words, even if the Minister has been put on the Selectee List, there's no way to verify that he has been, no way to discover why, no way to challenge said placement, and no way to get the Minister's name removed from the list.

While the Minister fully supports catching air-travelling "Terrorist Suiciders" he doesn't support the Bush Administration using a non-partisan government agency to target Americans based on their political beliefs.

Airport Security in this country has gotten painful in America since 9/11. Our Government's immediate response was to blame failed airport security for the failures of the CIA and FBI and Customs & Immigration services in allowing known terrorists into the country, to live here for years while planning and training for their attacks, and for not stopping them before they slammed two jetliners into the World Trade Center, a third into the Pentagon and a fourth into a field a few hundred miles short of the Capitol Dome or the White House.

This over-reaction to perceived (but not real) failures and the corresponding bulking up of Airport Security is stupid, futile and, in the long run, utterly pointless.

On September 11th, 2001, airport security did exactly the job that it was meant to do that day: it x-rayed the terrorists' carry-on baggage and ran them through a metal detector. The box cutters and Leatherman tools that the hijackers used on 9/11 were detected... and ignored because they were all perfectly legal to carry onboard of airplanes. If they hadn't been, they would have been confiscated.

Even that wouldn't have stopped the 9/11 hijackers, however. Ban whatever you like, it doesn't take the world's smartest criminal to smuggle a dangerous item onto plane. There's an entire class of people who spend all day concocting nefarious, and ultimately undetectable, instruments of destruction... prison inmates. As any Corrections Officer can tell you, prisoners are ruthlessly inventive when it comes to improvising weaponry with which to cause their fellow prisoners harm. Hell, G-10 laminate is an ultra-hard, metal-free material used in circuit boards, and can be carved into a wicked razor-sharp credit card knife that would pass any x-ray screening or metal detector. We can't keep weapons out of maximum security prisons... so how can we hope to keep them out of airports? Let's just stipulate that the hijackers would have boarded the planes on 9/11 despite whatever kind of weapons they had on them at the time.

So what's that mean? Quite simply, it says that metal detectors and X-Ray machines are the last line of defense designed to prevent a criminal from getting onboard a commercial airliner with an obvious weapons such as a handgun or a knife. They are not, and we should not expect them to be, front-line anti-terror tools. Stopping terrorists is a police and intelligence matter. Terrorism needs to be stopped at the planning stages. That's where increased security spending could do the most good. By the time the terrorist gets to the airport, it's too late... the primary line of defense has already failed and no amount of bullshit airport security will stop them at that point. If they've avoided detection, then these theoretical terrorists are easily clever enough to sneak weapons onboard the planes.

Despite whatever paranoid bullshit terror plots the Administration might bring up to scare Americans into surrendering civil liberties and expanding airport security measures, there remains one highly exceptional anti-terrorist protection scheme: the onboard passengers.

On September 11th, 2001, the era of the Al-Qaeda Passenger Airplane Bomb was both born... and strangled in its cradle. Prior to 9/11, terrorist hijackings typically ended with extended hostage negotiation situations and special-forces-shootouts on airport tarmacs. When those planes were hijacked, the passengers in them could only imagine that their flights would end the same way. But when the first three planes hit the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon, word went out to every plane in the air, including United Flight 93. There were no armed pilots or Air Marshals on United 93... instead, average American citizens discovered that they were NOT going to be landing in Cuba and traded for PLO "prisoners of war" but instead that they were going to be slammed into a government building. So they charged their attackers and forced them to prematurely crash the plane.

Today, there will be no "maybe this will all work itself out" phase for airline passengers. Today, EVERY passenger knows what will happen if terrorists get control of the plane: either they'll die when they're slammed into a building or they'll die when Dick Cheney orders them shot out of the air. NO ONE will EVER allow their plane to get taken over by Terrorists ever again. People will stand up, push one arm through the strap of the flotation devices that they're sitting on, and charge whatever stupid Al Queada Suicider was dumb enough to announce his intention to hijack the plane. Then that stupid terrorist will be kicked and stomped to death by the panicked passengers. United 93 wasn't the first time passengers had risen up against people trying to take over the plane, but it was certainly the LAST time that any passengers anywhere will allow a small group of terrorists to hijack their plane. Knives or no knives, guns or no guns, bombs or no bombs, shoebombs or no shoebombs, liquid explosive bombs or no liquid explosive bombs, no terrorist will ever again be able to take control of an airplane once it is in flight.

Osama (or whoever) has to know this. It's why Al Qaeda hasn't tried the same tactic again. It's too bad that the TSA insists on always protecting us against YESTERDAY'S threat.

Yes, Al Qaeda has tried other things, such as the stupid Richard Reid shoe bomb plot attempt which utterly failed... and yet accomplished Al Qaeda's primary goal of spreading fear and panic... because now the TSA (reacting to yesterday's threat) makes us take off our shoes at the security booth and stand around waiting for our shoes to come out of the x-ray machine. Reid's lame shoebomb attempt was foiled not by an x-ray machine, but by a flight attendant and some passengers who punched his lights out (thus proving my above theory).

Yet again, though, we see the average passenger being punished for the actions of one lone nutcase who was easily stopped. Enough with the x-raying of shoes... it's inconvenient for passengers, the Department of Homeland Security said that x-raying shoes doesn't detect bombs,and even if some idiot winds up on the plane with a shoe-bomb, he's going to get kicked and stomped to death. Give us some credit for a sense of self-preservation, would ya?

Incidentally, all airport security is rendered moot by the simple fact that for $50, any Al Qaeda Terrorist can put a package onto any airliner he wants simply by sending it "air freight." To this day, a full five fucking years after 9/11/2001, Air Freight packages are NOT x-rayed, nor does the Al Qaeda shippen even have to get on board with his bomb!

Only a moron would allow potentially bomb-filled packages to be shipped on civilian airliners while simultaneously making fliers take off their shoes, not carry liquids, or like in Britain, check their laptops and ipods. The simple fact that air freight isn't x-rayed means that ALL airport security is merely a Kabuki Dance designed to make the sheep feel safe-ish, all while reinforcing the need for an all-powerful police state.

See ya in Gitmo, kids!