Thursday, November 29, 2012

Top 10 websites holding the TSA accountable

While the general public blindly accepts the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, a number of websites and individuals have stepped up to question the TSA, its policies and very existence.
Criticism of the TSA cuts across party lines. Those on the left say the TSA’s policies infringe on the rights of everyday U.S. citizens. Those on the right say the TSA is an enormous waste of federal resources.
Here are the top 10 websites that are leading the charge to hold the TSA accountable right now.

1. TSA News

The TSA News blog provides level-headed reporting and criticism of the controversial agency. It’s become the go-to source for the latest TSA controversies, which seem never-ending.
The writers of the year-old TSA News understand that they’re chronicling an historic and disturbing shift in U.S. government policy.
Writer Lisa Simeone keeps a running master list of “TSA Crimes and Abuses.”
Consumer advocate and journalist Christopher Elliott is a frequent contributor.

2. Infowars.com

Radio commentator Alex Jones has been relentless in his attacks on the TSA. His conservative/libertarian websites, including Infowars.com, provide an impassioned critique of the TSA on a regular basis.
Some might say his commentary on the TSA is over the top, but at least it gets people’s attention. He’s trying to wake people up to what’s happening in the U.S. government today.
Infowars sponsored the recent “Opt Out and Film Week” of airport TSA protests.

3. The Drudge Report

Few websites have the influence and reach of Matt Drudge’s Drudge Report. When the Drudge Report posts an article on TSA scandals, it gets disseminated wide and fast.
Conservative pundit Drudge gives TSA news top priority on a frequent basis. Bravo for that.

4. Schneier on Security

Security expert Bruce Schneier has been an outspoken critic of TSA policies and procedures. He coined the term “security theater” to describe the TSA’s ineffective screening process. His website is Schneier on Security.

5. Ashley Jessica

Activist Ashley Jessica has waged a crusade against the TSA’s invasive pat downs and full-body scanners.
The Toronto-based PhD student was instrumental in the Opt Out and Film Week protests, which ran Oct. 19 to 26. She tweets about TSA abuses at @AshleyJessica and posts videos of her encounters with TSA agents.

6. TSA Out of Our Pants!

Jonathan Corbett documents TSA abuses and his own legal case against the agency on his blog TSA Out of Our Pants.
He made national news earlier this year by showing how easy it is to smuggle weapons or contraband through the TSA’s expensive nudie scanners.

7. Amy Alkon

Columnist and author Amy Alkon has slammed the TSA for its sexually abusive pat downs in numerous articles. She was among the first to stand up to the TSA publicly for its degrading pat downs and get the media talking about the agency’s procedures. She writes a blog called The Advice Goddess and is an active Twitter user at @AmyAlkon.

8. Agent Smith

The Twitter account @TSAgov by “Agent Smith” draws attention to TSA abuses through humor.
Smith’s posts knock the TSA for sexually assaulting passengers, stealing their valuables and other abuses.

9. Freedom to Travel USA

A group of citizens concerned about the actions of the TSA formed Freedom to Travel USA. The organization was founded by Wendy Thomson, Renee Beeker and Jeff Pierce to shine a spotlight on the unconstitutional actions of the TSA. It hopes to force political action to reform the agency.

10. Wikipedia

The Wikipedia entry on the Transportation Security Administration extensively details criticisms against the agency and controversial incidents. It provides a central repository for people to collect information and news articles on the TSA.

Honorable mentions

Other websites that report frequently about TSA activities include Reason; Boing Boing, especially co-editor Cory Doctorow; Techdirt, edited by Mike Masnick; and LewRockwell.com.
Did I miss anybody? Let me know.

Gone but not forgotten

Many TSA protest websites have come and gone over the 11-year existence of the agency.
Defunct sites include Homelandsecuritytheater.com and I Made the TSA Feel My Resistance.
Other anti-TSA websites remain online but haven’t been updated in some time, including The Daily Patdown, StopGropingMe.com, We Won’t Fly, TSA Felt Me Up, TSA Nightmare Stories, TSA: WTF? and TSA Tyranny.

Photo: T-shirt worn by Ashley Jessica from her Twitter feed.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Must-read articles about the controversial Transportation Security Administration

What follows is a list of news articles and commentary about the U.S. Transportation Security Administration that paint a troubling picture about the agency.

GOP report: TSA hasn’t improved aviation security (Washington Post; Nov. 16, 2011)

Ten Years Of The TSA (Yes, It Seems Much Longer) (Forbes; Nov. 18, 2011)

Smoke Screening: Does Airport Security Really Make Us Safer? (Vanity Fair; Dec. 20, 2011)

TSA: Fail (GmanCaseFile; Jan. 24, 2012)

Harms of Post-9/11 Airline Security (Schneier on Security; March 29, 2012)

The TSA’s mission creep is making the U.S. a police state (The Guardian; April 18, 2012)

Why Airport Security Is Broken — And How To Fix It (Wall Street Journal; April 15, 2012)

The Terrible Truth About the TSA: It’s a failure at everything it does. (Reason; May 17, 2012)

How much do we really hate the TSA? (CNN; June 2, 2012)

How To Fix the TSA (Popular Mechanics; Nov. 8, 2012)

Airport Security Is Killing Us (Bloomberg Businessweek; Nov. 18, 2012)

TSA abuse: 17,000 and counting (TSA News; Nov. 21, 2012)

Artwork: TSA parody logo (top) and TSA toy seen at Toys R Us by Wasting Time.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Why Americans should be concerned about the TSA

With Thanksgiving holiday travel coming to a close, it’s a good time to discuss the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. That’s because many Americans will have encountered the TSA first-hand over the last week or so.
Many people blindly support the TSA on the assumption that the agency is keeping us safe from terrorism. They say the TSA’s body scans and pat downs aren’t such a big deal and that inconveniences like restrictions on liquids and taking off your shoes, belts and other apparel are simply necessary evils to combat terrorism.
But the threat of terrorism has been greatly diminished by the U.S. fight against the Islamic militant organization al Qaeda, especially with the death of leader Osama bin Laden.
And airline passengers have stepped up to stop on-board threats since 9/11 taught them that hijackers can use planes as weapons. The “shoe bomber,” the “underwear bomber” and others have been stopped by passengers, not airport screeners.
Many studies have shown that the TSA is an ineffective organization that likely causes more harm than good. It’s made air travel a major hassle, especially those long security lines, and likely has cut demand for flights.
I’m sometimes asked why I have a problem with the TSA.
My main concerns with the TSA are two-fold: the agency’s actions are an affront to the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens and the organization is a tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars.
On the first point, the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that citizens should not be subject to searches of their bodies and homes without probable cause. Police officers can’t just stop and frisk people or search their cars and homes because they feel like it.
But TSA agents routinely pat down innocent passengers on a supposedly random basis or if they refuse to enter the agency’s full-body scanners, which are the subject of health and privacy concerns.
The TSA has caught flak for patting down children, who have been educated that strangers should not touch them. It also has been criticized for patting down the elderly and the infirm. Rape victims find TSA pat downs to be especially traumatic.
Some say, “Well, you don’t have to travel by plane if you don’t like the TSA’s procedures.” But that’s not being realistic. Plane travel for business and leisure is part of modern living.
If citizens give up their rights to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,” as the Fourth Amendment states, for the sake of security, their liberty is at risk. It’s a slippery slope to more government control over its citizens.
People might not see airport pat downs as a problem, but they need to consider the bigger picture of where this could lead.
The TSA already is expanding its purview to train and bus stations and the nation’s highways – all in the name of security.
The TSA also has shown little regard for oversight. For instance, it has ignored court-ordered safety checks of its radiation scanners. It oversees itself and answers to no one. If airport security were still run by private contractors, they would be subject to government oversight and could be replaced by other companies if they didn’t perform adequately. You can’t replace or reform the TSA if it supervises itself.
The TSA also has a reputation for retaliating against its vocal critics.
On the fiscal front, the TSA has become a massive works program for the federal government. The now-unionized TSA work force provides “security theater,” but little else. The agency has done a piss-poor job of screening checked luggage and overreacts to the smallest of potential threats.
It also has done a lousy job with hiring and supervising its workers. Hundreds have been arrested for theft from passenger luggage and an alarming number has been busted for child pornography and sexual offenses.
Various airport TSA outfits have been accused of racial discrimination, sexual abuse of women, incompetence, sleeping on the job and other misconduct. This is in addition to frequent complaints that TSA workers are rude and bullying.
I support disbanding the TSA and privatizing airport security again, as well as reforming and streamlining airport screening procedures so they are more efficient and less invasive. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Republicans and Democrats are to blame for creating this mess in reaction to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Now they must clean it up.

Photos: Photo illustrations by Max Trombly

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Porn stars molested by TSA agents just for grins, not security

Come on, TSA. Why do you keep hassling porn stars?
No terrorist past, present or future has looked like an adult film actress. So the only reason you molest porn stars is to cop a feel of their sexy curves. Admit it.
What follows is a sampling of posts to Twitter by porn stars venting about the TSA over the past six months. (See also May 24 post titled "TSA agents can’t keep their hands off porn stars.")

“Just violated by TSA for real #real talk #pissed #ugh #wtf” – Tasha Reign (June 17, 2012)

“Got molested by TSA like never before :-/” – Alexis Amore (Aug. 15, 2012)


“I would've prefer to have my hair pulled & my ass slapped next time the tsa agent does a twice-over pat down on my breasts & crotch...” – Jayden Cole (June 3, 2012)

“Enjoyed a full frontal boob #PatDown courtesy of #TSA - always a pleasure flying the #FriendlySkies” – Janet Mason (July 19, 2012)

“Just got screened by the #TSA for traces of explosives on my hands... and on my #ass ~ #nojoke” – Vicky Vette (July 25, 2012)

“Thank you TSA for molesting me” – Tiffany Fox (Aug. 21, 2012)


“This is the 7th time in a row TSA has "randomly" selected me for additional screening. No coincidence & obviously not random.... but why?” – Aurora Snow (Sept. 5, 2012)

“TSA at Philadelphia airport is the worst in the country I filed 2 complaints got a guy fired:)” – Tera Patrick (June 24, 2012)

“Just got a VERY THOROUGH patdown by TSA while going through security..apparently my dermals caused alarm &they felt the need to feel me up” – Katie King (Oct. 21, 2012)

Porn star Chanel Preston said she got yelled at by TSA agents for tying her shoe during one of the TSA’s “freeze” drills on Oct. 16.

“TSA guy thought I was using my little sister's ID. Thought I looked 12. It very clearly says 23 ya doofus.” – Brooklyn Lee (July 4, 2012)


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Nicki Minaj, Kal Penn, other celebrities complain about TSA abuses


Celebrities are just like you and me – they hate the TSA too.
Well, except for actor Ben Affleck, who recently defended the Transportation Security Administration by saying, “They grab your dick a little bit. It’s not the end of the world.”
And just like average Americans, they take to Twitter to complain about TSA abuses, misconduct and inefficiencies.
What follows is a sampling of celebrity tweets about encounters with TSA agents in the last six months. (See also the May 23 blog post “Adam Levine, Kyra Sedgwick, other celebs talk about getting felt up by TSA agents” and the May 24 post “More celebrities speak out against the TSA.”)

Sexually assaulted by TSA agents


Singer-rapper Nicki Minaj accused a TSA agent of groping her on July 9. She also complained that TSA screeners tried to prevent her from taking photos of the scene. (See articles by the Daily Mail and Twitchy Entertainment.)

“Pretty sure I was just overtly fondled @ this check point. By a very old lady w/an accent. Word?” – Nicki Minaj (July 9, 2012)

“So TSA always takes pics of me while doing their job! But wld u believe they just told ME EYE couldn't take pics???? Wow. #luckyIMsick” – Nicki Minaj (July 9, 2012)


Comic actor Rob Schneider tweeted about getting molested by TSA agents on June 27 and Sept. 10.

“Just went thru airport security where I 'opted out' of the full body scan x-ray and went for the free crotch massage! So relaxing!” – Rob Schneider (June 27, 2012)

“I'd like to thank TSA Agent Davenport at DFW Airport for touching my penis. He was gentle yet firm. He managed to get me on both sides! Wow” – Rob Schneider (Sept. 10, 2012)

Actor Kal Penn tweeted about getting TSA pat-downs on Aug. 13, Sept. 7 and Oct. 31.

“Very thorough inguinal massage from #TSA this morning.” – Kal Penn (Aug. 13, 2012)

On Sept. 7, Penn was spotted getting a “ridiculously long” pat-down at the Charlotte, N.C., airport. (See article by Twitchy Entertainment.) He joked that it was a “great buttocks massage.”

Then on Halloween, Penn posted photos of himself in a Tigger costume getting an airport pat-down. 

Penn’s “Harold and Kumar” co-star John Cho also tweeted about getting an aggressive TSA pat-down recently.

“Gonna take a silkwood shower now to forget about my experience with Manchester TSA. #exceptionallythorough” – John Cho (Sept. 17, 2012)


Country music singer John Rich, comedian D.L. Hughley, Go-Go’s rocker Jane Wiedlin and actress Mayim Bialik have tweeted about their gropings at the hands of the TSA as well.

“Just got GROPED by the TSA in Kansas City. Of There was a lady in a wheelchair being groped too so I can't totally bitch. TSA=Outta control” – John Rich (July 29, 2012)

“I got patted down 2 day! If I was gonna sneak something n my pants it wouldn't be a bomb it'd be my luggage so I could avoid all those fees!” – D.L. Hughley (June 19, 2012)

“At Baltimore Airport. Got my customary groping, no happy ending. You can't spell TEASE without #TSA ! Im off to Wisconsin to visit family.” – Jane Wiedlin (Aug. 6, 2012)

“My sexytime with #TSA was especially good this morning. Now I'm craving a cigarette. #IDontSmoke” – Jane Wiedlin (Sept. 20, 2012)

“TSA rant: really? I “can't fly” unless I let you vigorously pat down my injured hand with its isotoner compression glove? Can't fly? Unbelievable. I took it off, endured pain and my blood pressure rose 50 points. But at least now I can fly.” – Mayim Bialik (Oct. 17, 2012)

Singer Solange Knowles raised a ruckus when she tweeted about a TSA agent fingering her hair. (See articles by the Daily Mail, Global Grind and Styleite.)

“Lets play a little game called: "What did TSA find in Solange's Fro"?” – Solange Knowles (Nov. 14, 2012)


Rude TSA agents 

“is it only me that thinks TSA agents slowly turning into carnival barkers? #iknowtotakemyshoesoff,thanks” – actress Kristen Bell. (July 6, 2012)

“Wearing sweater dress. Can't fully raise my hands above my head for body scan without it getting short. "u didn't think about that??" – TSA” – model Christine Teigen (Sept. 21, 2012)

“No TSA. i don't get up in the morning and wonder how i should dress for your stupid full body scanner.” – model Christine Teigen (Sept. 21, 2012)

Nudie scanners, dumb liquid rules and other indignities 


“"Is your name Joseph?" the TSA lady smirked at me, recognizing my face before directing me into the x-ray thingy to view my naked body :o(” – actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Oct. 6, 2012)

“I was relieved of a $6 tube of Crest at the airport. My teeth now have beef with the TSA.” – actor Dax Shepard (Oct. 16, 2012)

“Can't believe they just toss out liquids at the airport... U know how many ppl in this world don't even have soap?! #blasphemy” – Singer Aubrey O’Day (July 8, 2012)

“You know you're country when: the item confiscated from you at airport security is your to-go cup of pinto beans!” – actress Ashley Judd (Oct. 5, 2012)

“I forgot & they took my 'spensive face creams, lotions, etc. All because some asshole tried to set his shoes on fire.” – actress Kristen Johnston (Sept. 14, 2012)

Actor William Shatner made headlines when he talked about his pants falling down during a TSA pat-down. (See his June 28, 2012, tweet and a video of him recounting the incident to Craig Ferguson.)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Blogging is hard work; No wonder people are switching to Twitter, Tumblr

Writing a blog is hard work.
From the very beginning of Tech-media-tainment, I’ve taken a journalistic approach to the subjects I cover. I write about things that interest me and give opinions that I don’t see elsewhere online.
I’m not going to bore people with mundane reports about my life and family.
That means coming up with topics that are of interest to a broader audience of Web surfers. I focus on entertainment, technology, media and pop culture, which gives me a lot of subjects to play with.
Some articles take a lot time to develop, research and write. Others I can pound out pretty quickly.
I like to provide useful weblinks in my articles where applicable. And I like to jazz up my articles with nice photos or artwork, which I source when I can. All of this takes time and effort.
Many people have gravitated to microblogging services like Twitter and Tumblr or media sharing on Facebook or Pinterest. Those services are much easier to use than blogging services like WordPress or Google’s Blogger. It’s faster and simpler to post a quick thought or repost an interesting or funny photo than it is to write a full article.
A colleague of mine, Ed Carson, posted an interaction he had with his daughter recently about blogging.
“My 10 yr.-old girl is always joking I need to spend time on my BLOG. Got to BLOG. Sigh. I’m on Twitter. So sad to see her stuck in 2008,” he wrote Tues. Nov. 6.
That same day, my blog, Tech-media-tainment had its 4-year anniversary. Since then, it’s logged more than 1.18 million page views.
I can’t see stopping my blogging, but I am spending more time on Twitter and Tumblr.

P.S. In honor of the 4-year anniversary of Tech-media-tainment, I’ve changed the look of the website again.
I dropped the Lego-style cityscape logo with the Comic Sans typeface. It looked pretty cheesy. I changed the text fonts to Times New Roman and headlines to Georgia. I’ve also brightened the color scheme with a lighter pallete from the previous dark blues. And finally, I changed the LinkWithin module to show four stories instead of three. Nothing major. Just a refresh.

Photo: Funny cat graphic circulated through social media known as Science Cat. Total non sequitur.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

2012 election featured big Libertarian victories on issues

The major party candidates for U.S. president this year, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, offered no attractive option for Libertarian-minded voters. The race was a better-of-two-evils choice, at best.
If you are liberal on social issues, but conservative on fiscal and government scope issues, a vote for either Obama or Romney represented a painful compromise of principles.
That is likely why Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson attracted nearly 1.2 million votes nationwide, the most ever for the party. Johnson, a former two-term Republican governor of New Mexico, got 1% of the votes in the presidential race. He ran on a traditional Libertarian platform of dramatically smaller federal government. (See UPI article and Libertarian Party press release.)
On the state front, several measures supported by Libertarians won voter approval on Tuesday.
Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington state became the first in the country to approve same-sex marriage, ending a 32-state losing streak. The vote was closest in Washington, NBC News said. Legislatures in six other states – Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Iowa, Vermont, New York and Connecticut – and the District of Columbia have approved gay marriage laws, Yahoo News reported.
Voters in Washington state and Colorado voted “yes” on measures that would legalize the sale of pot to adults, without the need for a doctor’s prescription, USA Today and Huffington Post reported. And voters in Massachusetts overwhelmingly approved a measure to allow the use of medical marijuana.
Libertarians believe in minimal government involvement in people’s personal lives.

Photos: Graphic from Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, posted to his Twitter account on Thursday; and marijuana plants. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Forget issues; Presidential elections often come down to a candidate’s likability

Political issues are fine and dandy. But what really sways voters is a candidate’s likeability.
Whether you agree or disagree with his political stances and actions while in office, most people would say President Barack Obama is an extremely likable fellow. He seems warm, genuine, caring and has a good sense of humor.
Contrast that to his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, who comes across as cold, robotic and aloof. He seems like a rich jerk who doesn’t understand how average Americans live. No wonder voters gave Obama a second term on Tuesday.
The likability of each candidate is reinforced by media bias. If a reporter personally doesn’t like someone, there’s a greater likelihood that they’ll play up some gaffe, controversial statement or position. By contrast, if they like a candidate as a person, they’re more likely to let those things slide. Reporters are only human after all.
Even supporters of Gov. Romney probably weren’t all that fond of the guy.
Likability affects voter turnout and probably gets a certain percentage of swing voters.
Look at the presidential elections over the years. Compare the candidates for likability and try to ignore their political positions. Generally the more likable of the two candidates is the victor.
Before Romney, Obama faced the prickly John McCain. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, is a very likable guy who defeated two ivory-tower stiffs in Al Gore and John Kerry. And before Bush, the immensely likable Bill Clinton beat grumpy old men George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole.
Now back to Obama. The guy is beloved not only by the media, but by pop culture. He’s been portrayed as a hero in comic books and video games and created a cottage industry for memorabilia, art and novelty gifts bearing his likeness.
You certainly didn’t see the same enthusiasm for Romney.


Photos: Comic books featuring Barack Obama include “Barack the Barbarian” and “Youngblood #9,” in which the president reactivates Free Agent to battle a terrorist cell. 

Also check out:

Barack Obama in comics (Wikipedia entry)
Barack Obama’s Five Strangest Comic Book Adventures (Comicbook.com)
5 Insane Barack Obama Comic Books You Won’t Believe are Real (Cracked.com)

Hollywood loves Barack Obama as well, with stars like Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce and Jay-Z stumping for the president.
The photos below show singer Katy Perry wearing one of her many pro-Obama outfits (see articles by EW, the Hollywood Reporter and Yahoo) and model Claudia Romani was showing her support for Obama in her swimwear choice (via The Superficial).


Monday, November 5, 2012

Toughest ticket in town: Seeing Mitt Romney on eve of presidential election

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was in Fairfax, Va., today, on the eve of the 2012 election. I tried to get in to see him speak, but the crowd was overwhelming.
Romney supporters filled up the Patriot Center, which seats 10,000, and several thousand other people were sent to an outdoor overflow area to hear him give his final sales pitch via loudspeakers. After standing in line in the cold for more than two hours, I decided it wasnt worth it to stand in the cold any longer if I wasnt going to see him speak in person.
I had been through this drill twice before this fall to see President Barack Obama speak at George Mason University in Fairfax. The first time I didnt get in the venue reached capacity as I neared the entrance. But I got VIP tickets to the next event, because of my inconvenience, which was sweet. I had no problems getting into the second event with Obama at GMU.
Getting into these events is an enormous hassle. You have to arrive hours before the event begins to have a chance to get in. The lines move extremely slowly because the candidates use airport-style security. They give out way more tickets than they have room for.
Id be willing to pay to get an assigned seat to these events. Candidates could give the money to charity or their campaigns. If the seats arent filled, lets say, an hour before the event starts, you can give them away to standbys.
I was floored by the turnout for the Romney event. It has me thinking that he was a good shot at winning Virginia, a swing state. Well find out tomorrow after the ballots are counted.

Photo: 2012 election-themed packaging art by San Francisco-based artist Brian Singer.

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