Your Tax Dollars At Work (Odds And Ends)

[ Posted Friday, April 13th, 2007 – 20:00 UTC ]

Yet another odds-and-ends Friday column, in the proud Herb Caen tradition of three-dot journalism. Happy Friday the 13th to all!


. . . I have no way to verify this story, but if it's true it's horrifying. A respected Princeton professor had some trouble getting permission to fly on a commercial plane recently. The whole blog post is worth reading, but here's the heart of the matter, in the professor's own words:

One of the two people to whom I talked asked a question and offered a frightening comment: "Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that." I explained that I had not so marched but had, in September, 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the Web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the Constitution. "That'll do it," the man said.

Your tax dollars at work. Like I said, frightening. Does no one remember COINTELPRO and the Church Committee?


. . . Your tax dollars at work, part 2. The Washington Post recently reported about the FBI questioning people in a parking garage during a protest rally in Washington about their political views, because (are you ready?) they were wearing black. Apparently this means you are a suspected anarchist now, as far as the feebies are concerned. This article is required reading for anyone who cares about the Constitution. The Washington Post even ran an editorial about it which (for once) took the right position on the matter:

If you don't like something your government is doing, you should be able to come to Washington, D.C., and say so in peaceful protest. You shouldn't have to worry that the color of your shirt will get you arrested. Or that police will call in the FBI to grill you about your political or religious views. It's distressing, then, when authorities in the nation's capital show so little regard for the basic American tenet of free assembly and trample on the rights of citizens.

See previous comment re: COINTELPRO and the Church Committee.


. . . Did anyone else out there see the irony in America condemning Iran for the way they treated the captured British soldiers and sailors? It's kind of hard to get worked up over the Iranians' behavior when the CIA is doing worse things to prisoners in the name of the American people. In other words, it's hard for us to get on our high horse when we've abandoned the moral high road ourselves.


. . . In a related story, Luis Posada Carilles, suspected of blowing up a commercial airline in 1976 and other terrorist acts, will not be freed as planned. Although blowing up airplanes would normally qualify you as a terrorist, the Justice Department refuses to classify him as such. The U.S. government (who is holding him on a minor immigration charge) isn't interested in delivering him to Venezuela to answer for his alleged crime because he fears he might be tortured.

So much for the War on Terror. Sorry, but I'm so disgusted at the government's blatant hypocrisy in this entire story that I can't even write a punch line. Feel free to make your own up.


. . . Perhaps I'm losing my mind, but was Defense Secretary Gates (while holding a press conference telling soldiers they have to stay an extra three months in Iraq) really wearing a tie with Star Wars TIE fighters on it? Is that the image the Defense Department really wants to give the world now -- we're the Empire so don't mess with us or we'll send a Death Star to whomp your ass? I must be seeing things... you decide. Here are the photos:


Secretary Gates (photo credit CNN)

TIE Fighter

TIE fighter (photo credit Wookieepedia)


. . . If you only saw the "dog ate my homework" clip on the news, you should take the time to read all of Senator Leahy's speech on the Senate floor the other day. He's one of my favorite senators, and it's easy to see why:

We must engage in all surveillance necessary to prevent acts of terrorism, but we can and should do so in ways that protect the basic rights of all Americans, including the right to privacy. The issue has never been whether to monitor suspected terrorists but doing it legally and with proper checks and balances to prevent abuses.


. . . And finally, some good news to end on. Senator Tim Johnson's staff are remodeling his office (to make it wheelchair accessible) in anticipation of his return from convalescing after his brain surgery. With the Democrats' majority in the Senate razor-thin, we need him back badly.

From the release from his office:

The Senator is doing great and making wonderful progress. You may soon be seeing stories about some physical changes to Senator Johnson's DC office. They are, in fact, widening some of the walkways in the suite, as well as, making some changes to his personal office so that it better fits his needs when he returns. This process will take several weeks, and he certainly will not return before it is completed. Senator Johnson is still in in-patient rehabilitation. He will eventually transition to out-patient status before returning to work in the office.


[See the original Huffington Post article, complete with comments.]

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