As I predicted: African Americans committing crimes and using revenge for Trayvon as the excuse. Sadly we as a society will put up with this..
I’ve been seeing this scam going around a lot recently as more companies take public documents, that are completely free to the public and usually widely available, and then CHARGE THEM FOR IT. The biggest scammers in this racket is Penny Hill Press. One of their favorite tactics is to take Congressional Research Service documents and then try to sell them to you, the unsuspecting public. The Congressional Research Service, or CRS, is the think-tank research arm of congress. They write factually based, unbiased reports on a variety of issues and current events. Most of these documents quickly find their way into the public domain within a week or so of publication. However, Penny Hill Press scrapes those documents and then tries to sell them to the public for outrageous prices.
If a document, report, paper, or whatever has been produced by a government agency then most of the time you can get that report FOR FREE!
It’s your tax dollars after all. CRS documents have had a long history of being released or prevented from release. Congress likes to think of CRS as their own little private research firm. In reality, if you wrote your member of congress, their local district office, your Senator, or even a federal agency that covers that issues, they will usually email it to you without a problem.
Seriously. It should be a crime for companies to take publicly available, free documents, and then try and trick people into paying for them. It’s like checking books out of the library and then charging people to borrow them from you.
When in doubt GOOGLE. For CRS documents type a few words for a subject, or if you know the title of the document, followed by CRS and “filetype: pdf” without the quotations. This will tell Google to return to you only PDF documents, as all CRS docs are in. Heck, try it down. Type into Google: CRS “Congressional Research Service” filetype: pdf
Watch and be amazed. Avoid the scams.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010 is NATIONAL OPT-OUT DAY!
Are you traveling this holiday season? If so then you need to know about a serious violation of not only your civil rights, but also your right to be treated as a human being. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has instituted several new policies designed to humiliate you (the passenger) in the event you decline to walk through their full-body x-ray machine. Here’s how it works:
When you go through security at soon-to-be-all airports in the United States, you may be asked to go through a special x-ray machine that uses backscatter X-ray technology and millimeter-wave technology. This allows the TSA to see beneath your clothing and, basically, to see you naked.You are blasted with radiation and a photo of your naked body is seen by the TSA and (quite possibly) kept. Now here’s where it gets tricky.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE! Under the law you may “opt out” of being bombarded with radiation and having your privacy violated. Unfortunately the TSA has made it POLICY that in the event of an “opt out” you are to then be HUMILIATED physically, and in public, as punishment. Previously in the event of an opt-out the TSA screener would pat you down with the backs of their hands. That has been changed. According to ABC news:
Starting Oct. 29, if a person chooses not to go through the scanner, a TSA employee will now conduct an aggressive pat down. The TSA employee will use the front of their hands during the pat down — rather than the previously-used back of the hand — and slide their hands along the body. The touching does include private areas.
But the perverted TSA does not stop there. If you have small children the TSA will put their hands on your childs genitals and squeeze. If you are searched the TSA will grope you and feel your genitals. This is intended to humiliate you into not refusing the full body scan. In no free society should citizens be HUMILIATED in order to follow a rule which – it should be noted – has not prevented a single terrorist attack of any kind.
So in response I and many others have decided to opt-out of this process. If the TSA wants to grope me then so be it. I will stand there and make every obnoxious, racial, bigoted, sexual, and humiliated comment I can think of right back, and so should you. The TSA is molesting our children and their sexually assaulting our fellow citizens, and it’s time to put a stop to it.
Money. Money. Money.
Barry Obama spent nearly a BILLION dollars to win the Presidency. Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina are running tremendous campaigns in California and spending like crazy. Now comes news of Rick Scott in the Florida Governors race, surging in the polls and spending like crazy despite what some had thought as a cake walk for the established, buttoned down, credentialed Attorney General Bill McCollum.
I have worked on numerous political campaigns in Alaska, Georgia, Virginia, and North Carolina, from Congress to Governor to President and back again. There was a moment when I was talking to a party official in Alaska where I thought “hey, if a person had enough money, could they win office without ever really meeting the voter?” The official stammered and said no, you’d still have to give face time to voters, but I think there’s a chance…
If I had a ton of money and wanted to win public office, here’s how I think it might work:
1) I first have to recognize that I am not the candidate. No way, no how. I’d never win even with Jesus as my running mate. We have to create the candidate, a surrogate, and mold him or her into what I want. In politics this depends on the region and the office. Let’s go with Senator. It’s a statewide office so you’re dealing with a narrow bloc of voters. For this exercise let’s choose Florida. The candidate on paper must be educated, white, middle age, with a moderate income of his own, married, preferably with kids under 10. His job must not be something which has the potential for immediate scrutiny, so no oil well owners, hospital owners, lawyers, most doctors, or anything like that. How about an engineer at a software company. That will work.
2) It’s all about image; less about message. If the candidate looks good, and is given the right message to say, without any political bombshells in his past that could be used against him, it’s a process of convincing the voters – and the voters are the easiest part. The hard part of a campaign will be the media and the opponent. If you have the media on your side you could win any election. To counteract the media you must, as in the words of Anita Dunn, Obama’s former Communications Director “”Very rarely did we communicate through the press anything that we didn’t absolutely control”. In speaking about videos of campaign manager David Plouffe:
“We just put that out there and made them write what Plouffe had said as opposed to Plouffe doing an interview with a reporter. So it was very much we controlled it as opposed to the press controlled it.”
You must, must, must control the media in any campaign and that starts with message, with your own media team, and with a relentless subjugation of the media as a whole and it’s reporters. Their job is to create controversy and sell it with advertising, and the media will use whatever they can or have to do it.
3) Next comes the most important part of any campaign: the team. Every candidate has a team and the size of that team depends on the money you have. The first rule of any campaign is that the candidate must never be allowed to speak to the media directly unless he is scripted and the media contact is vetted to be on his side. Everyone else takes a backseat and only speaks through surrogates. We don’t want any Katie Couric gotcha journalism.
The team must contain a widening number of these surrogates to spread the message and handle the voters. Remember: our candidate is well funded, he doesn’t need to spend a dime of his own money, therefore he never has to fundraise. Here’s a short list of the team:
The basic team will consist of:
- A very seasoned and savvy campaign manger with no morals
- Lawyers. Several of them
- Public Relations experts
- Stylists and fashion consultants
- Speech writers and Copy editors
- Website developers and content creators, with video and sound experts
- Private investigators and opposition researchers
- Canvassers – People who walk the streets handing out information
- Pollsters: An army of people who will constant measure which way the wind is blowing.
Then comes the heavy hitters: The special interest group coordinators. Imagine every voting group in America. The first that should come to mind is Whites, Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics. You must have a point guard for each of these major groups, preferably a team, that will work together to create a message that appeals to each of these groups. In Florida this must also include Cubans and Latinos. Besides these core racial groups:
- Poor people
- Rich people
- Baptists and other religions
- Blue collar
- White collar
- Nascar Dads
- Stay at home moms
- Inner city families
- Suburban families
- Fringe groups on all sides of the spectrum: Tea, Green, Socialist, Anarchist
- Pet owners
- High School and College kids (team)
Each of these surrogates will embody the particular stereotyped group. They will all coordinate so that the candidates message is appealed directly to each group but never in contradiction. Some of these groups cross over, most do not. You will not find handicapped people talking about their political views as a group with inner city youths, same with nascar dads and Jewish groups. Unless they have a preexisting cross, such as inner city and certain races, you will not find much cross-conversation. This is a sad fact of America that is a political gold mine: We tend to stay in very small groups tied with our race, religion or political party, and distrust other groups outside of that.
Did I mention everyone must get paid and paid well, with iron clad confidentiality agreements? As in you talk we take your first, second, and third born.
The candidate will always be on message, trained in acting, trained in how to speak and convey a message, styled to perfection, rolled out and presented on a silver platter to key groups and audiences, never a tough money, never a question unanticipated. Once elected all bets are off because you have 6 years to solidify your office, eradicate previous misconceptions or mistakes, and utilize the broader interest groups such as labor unions, corporations, etc. to keep you in office.
Sadly if this ever occurred it would be the end of our democratic society as we know it. I do not wish to ever see a person buy their office, but it does happen far too often without anyone noticing. I realized in the past 2 years that America is made up of pawns, voters who will do what you tell them to do, and who will eagerly jump with just the slightest provocation. The kicker is to “peak” these groups all at the same time, like an athlete who wants his best performance to happen at a specific time.
If you think all of his is impossible, just imagine what you could do if you had unlimited money and had everyone else doing the hard stuff for you.
Google’s Street View car, when it would drive through an area, would also collect wifi access point SSID’s, and those that were open, it would also collect a small amount of data.
Ok. Am I the only one who’s going to say it?
Why is this a bad thing?
First, your access point SSID is broadcast automatically by default. You can turn it off if you want but few people ever do. Every time I go to a Starbucks and open my MacBook, I see a billion wifi SSID’s. Omg I am scanning SSIDs and a list is formed. Did I just commit a crime?
Second, if your access point is unsecured then you are an idiot and you have no right to claim a privacy violation. If you are making your internet wireless and open to the world it’s up to YOU to secure it. Our computers collect and disseminate data left and right all day long. My computer picks up random signals from random open access points (not to mention other devices). How am I committing a crime?
I once knew a group of computer engineers that would drive around downtown Atlanta with a pin-point accurate wifi antenna and test the wireless access points of business for research. If they found one wide open or easy to break, they’d send the business an anonymous email telling them of the problem. Did they commit a crime?
Third, and this is really important: Google is not the first company to collect wireless data. Businesses and governments are collecting your wireless data right now whether you like it or not. Walk into any major mall in America and your mobile phone is pinged, cataloged, and tracked. You send and receive data, a sensor in the mall is also receiving that data. You walk from the front door to Macy’s and buy some socks, that data is correlated and sync’d so the next time you walk by a sensor they know who you are, where you’ve been, and what you like to do. The difference for this is that it’s all on private property. You have no expectation of privacy on private property, nor do you really in public.
So to Google I say go for it. Collect as much data as you want. You’re not the only one. The key will be what you do with that data. If you’re like ChoicePoint and Axiom and LexisNexis, and you SELL THAT DATA, then that’s wrong and it should be a crime. But collecting data? WTF. If you’re afraid of your data being sniffed, snorted, collected, and stored, don’t broadcast it.
If you don’t know what that means or what you’re doing, then step away from the wireless internet world because it will bite you someday.
Apple, Inc. is a brilliant technology company that has given us many innovative, truly amazing products. At the same time, Apple has penalized, punished, sued, and bullied its way through the world in ways that make Microsoft look like the neighborhood lemonade stand. They have sued customers into oblivion, stifled competition, bullied the media and its competitors for years. But now the final straw may have been broken.
Many people don’t seem to realize what occurred over the weekend regarding the new iPhone prototype. Let me sum it up for you real quick:
On the night of March 18, iPhone engineer Gray Powell walked into a bar in Redwood City California and left an iPhone prototype. Someone found it and for whatever reason took it home. The person tried to contact Apple who said they had no idea and could not comment further. So they took it to Gawker, an online media publisher. Gawker instantly recognized the potential, proven or not, of a great news story – so they they paid the guy $5,000 for it. At the time, we didn’t know if it was the real thing or not. It didn’t even get past the Apple logo screen. They took pictures, they took it apart, and they analyzed the heck out of it. After all that they published a MAJOR news story that was instantly devoured by the public.
Gawker, the publisher of Gizmodo, and the editors tried unsuccessfully to contact Apple to confirm if the device was indeed theirs. Apple would not confirm it was their phone, but they did ask for the phone to be sent to them. Gizmodo (as anyone would) demanded some type of admittance that this was their phone and they would like it back – just in case it really wasn’t! So finally, at the insistence of Gizmodo, Apple sent a formal letter asking for the prototype back – which Gizmodo immediately did. So far, so good.
Then on April 26, police raided the home of Jason Chen, Editor of Gizmodo (warrant etc. in the link). They seized a ton of stuff. Not only did they take all of his computers, but also iPhone, iPad, iPods, wireless base station, his business cards and a wholeeee lot of other stuff. (see previous link for details).
The raid was carried out by California’s Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT) at the behest of Apple Computers, which sits on the REACT steering committee. If you’re not familiar with REACT don’t be surprised, neither was I – or anyone else outside of the high, high level of silicon valley computing. REACT is a high-tech crimes task force that was formed to deal with issues such as piracy and theft of trade secrets in the tech industry. However it appears the raid was may have been conducted at the behest of Apple, but may have also been illegal.
The law is a little murky here but it makes sense. According to Wired magazine:
“The federal Privacy Protection Act prohibits the government from seizing materials from journalists and others who possess material for the purpose of communicating to the public. The government cannot seize material from the journalist even if it’s investigating whether the person who possesses the material committed a crime by receiving or possessing the material, which seems to be the nature of the investigation involving Chen. Instead, investigators need to obtain a subpoena, which would allow the reporter or media outlet to challenge the request and segregate information that is not relevant to the investigation.”
This refers to an area of law called “shield” laws (remember the Valerie Plame case?) A 1972 court case set a legal standard for decided if reporters are shielded from police action related to their journalism, but a formal law has never been passed. But wait! There’s more from Wired:
“California state law also provides protections to prevent journalists from being forced to disclose sources or unpublished information related to their work.”
So we’ve got a federal legal ruling and a state law. But Gawker/Gizmodo is an electronic blog, are they really journalists? According to Jennifer Granick, civil liberties director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, ”California law is crystal clear that bloggers are journalists too”. That clarification comes from the case of Jason D. O’Grady, a blogger who was sued by Apple and won with the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. From the EFF website on the case:
“In May 2006 a California state appeals court ruled in favor of the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s petition on behalf of three online journalists, holding that the online journalists have the same right to protect the confidentiality of their sources as offline reporters do.”
So where does that leave us? The San Mateo County District Attorney got a warrant against a protected individual, conducted an illegal raid, illegally seized property, and may have done so at the direction of a private corporation. If this doesn’t make you mad then you must be asleep.
Here’s my final take since nothing has been resolved:
1) If I find an iPhone in a bar I’m not giving it to the bartender. I may leave my name and phone number but there’s no way I’m giving it to a bartender. I’ve worked in the food and drink industry and saw countless number of employees keeping lost property for themselves.
2) I would not have sold it to Gizmodo because it could have been truly stolen property.
3) If I were Gizmodo I would have gleefully paid for the phone and the story – because it’s a major, major story. It’s not the first time a story has been bought. Specifically because Gizmodo did not know the history of the device, or even if it was real.
4) Journalists should be shielded from revealing sources in instances that do not involve national security. I support the enactment of a limited journalists shield law, but as with the case of the leaked video from Iraq I say if it’s classified and you release it you should go to jail. Period.
I think Apple has no legs to stand on. Your people lost it. You didn’t claim it up front so a journalist is more than in their right to treat it as lost and unclaimed property. On top of that you look like a bunch of jackbooted thugs bullying everyone. Unless Apple – and by Apple I mean Steve Jobs – doesn’t step up and make this right publicly, I am done with Apple products.
This ain’t over yet! What if the police just happen to find questionable porn, software, or other stuff on Chen’s computer. They could prosecute him for that too! It’s not out of the realm of huge possibility, though hopefully that will fall under the legal doctrine of fruit of the poisonous tree.
There’s a little piece of the recently passed health care bill that is beginning to bug me.
A business with more than 50 employees, who do not provide health insurance to their employees,will be required to pay a fine of $2,000 per employee, excluding the first 30 of those employees. So $2,000 for employee number 31 and above.
However, if the company has fewer than 50 employees, say 49, then are exempt from any penalties if they choose not to provide insurance coverage for their workers.
So I wonder.. what happens to the 51st employee? Let’s say I am a small business, a lettuce grower in California or a small drywall business in Atlanta. My business rises and falls with the economy on small margins. What do I do when business is good and I am thinking about hiring more workers? Since everyone is required to buy health insurance I don’t really need to do that anymore. True, I can get a better rate in a group policy for all of us, but that’s a lot of money, and I never know when the housing market will take a down turn or the weather will go crazy freezing my crop. I’m in a bind. I want to hire some people but if I go over 50 then I will be required to buy health insurance. I can’t do that so I just won’t be hiring anyone else.
Let’s turn that around.. Let’s say I’ve got 60 employees and business is good but not great. When 2014 rolls around and I am required to buy health insurance for employees number 31-60, I’d be better off laying 11 people off. That will bring me under 50 and I can avoid buying that health insurance.
This is troubling to me as a potential employee because we are placing a new “cost” on hiring employees. No longer are we paid a salary. Now we must worry about health care fines and costs to our employer. Since there’s no cap on how much an insurance company can charge those firms are really in a pickle.
So the solution is this: All companies will more than 49 employees should lay those employees off on December 31st, 2013. All companies with 49 employees or less should do everything they can NOT to hire anyone else. It’s just basic economics. Fixed and variable costs.
I would hate to be that 50th employee…perhaps the newest, youngest, or oldest. Because if all else fails I’m the first to go and the last one on earth to get hired.
A short time ago Google got hacked by what they believe were hackers from China. This was followed by Google declaring that they would stop censoring their search engine in China and/or leave China all together. I thought this was just a PR move and that Google would never leave. Well apparently I was proven wrong. Four days ago Google redirected their searches to Hong Kong which is not subjected to Chinese censorship. In response the Chinese government threw up their massive filter (known as the Great Firewall) thereby returning everything back to null and business as usual.
Other companies have jumped on the bandwagon in limiting their contact with the Chinese government, specifically as it relates to spying on Chinese citizens, reporting those citizens, and in general acting as an arm of the Chinese government.
I applaud Google for this move. They are going to lose a ton of money from this. The Chinese government, as expected, responded by telling Google to basically to suck it.
Here’s what I think: The free world, as in any country that respects the free speech of its citizens, the free exchange of information, and TRANSPARENCY of government, should block all internet traffic to and from China. This may sound like a crazy Cuban missile crisis idea but think about it..
1) The amount of American internet traffic seeking out Chinese websites is very small – because of the language barrier. The Chinese people tend to speak English, and they’re learning as fast as they can. But how many non-Chinese web users are accessing Chinese websites and information?
2) The Chinese people, and their government, have much more to gain from the free flow of information to and from North America (and everywhere else) than we do. They depend on us, the free world, for the internet. That is the definition of the internet after all.
3) By blocking all Chinese web traffic we, the free(ish) world, could cut down on the amount of Chinese cyberattacks and hackers.
I say again: For once, China needs us more than we need them. Until the Chinese government stops censoring its internet for its citizens (let’s keep it narrow) then we, the rest of the world, will censor China from us.
By now you should know that an idiot tried to ignite an incendiary device aboard Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas day. The terrorist, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of Nigeria, tried to ignite a set of explosive powder that he had strapped in his underwear. He failed, of course. This is the most high profile attempt at taking out a jet liner since Richard Reids’ rather smart shoe bomb attempt, but I have some doubts.
First, the fact that Abdulmutallab was able to get the explosives past security should surprise no one. At the screening point your belongings, shoes, bags, and coats are sent through an x-ray machine. You, however, walk through a metal detector. I’ve carried sandwiches in my pants through the metal detector for a long time. Plastic explosives, powers, and even liquids strategically placed on the body will sail right through the metal detectors.
Oh, wait, what about the puffer machine? The silly mechanism is designed to blast you with puffs of air in the hopes of dislodging residues. Seriously? Does the TSA think terrorists don’t take showers? What a joke. The short of it is anyone could take through security a significant amount of explosive powder or plastic and no one would know until the plane fell from the sky. Get 5 people on the same flight and that plane is dead.
Second, I believe this guy was a groupie, a terrorist wanna-be and not the real McCoy.The first mistake the idiot made was trying to ignite the explosive while sitting in his seat, as the plane was landing. Why didn’t he try it at around 14,000 feet? As soon as the captain said we’re going to be starting our approach soon, he should have jumped up, said he has an overactive bladder (which the stewards would have smiled and said no problem), high tailed it to the front bathroom, packed the explosives against the wall, and set it off. Oh, the smoke detector? Big deal. Means nothing when the bomb goes off. The second act of stupidity the guy did was to declare as soon as they seized upon him that he was Al Qaeda, had been sent by Al Qaeda and all that bullshit. We can’t even get these guys to confess after years at Guantanamo Bay – do you really think a REAL Al Qaeda terrorist would fess up so easily?!
Third, if someone really wanted to take a plane out of the sky, right now, it could be done, under current TSA and Homeland Security rules – and there’s not very much to stop them. Think about what a plane is. Light weight aluminum. Your seat is the best part of the plane to blow a hole in it because there’s about 3-4 inches separating you from the air. The key is to blow out, not in, and that’s why it’s difficult to pack the explosive. But if someone used plastic explosive, well, the hole is going to rip open.
But taking a modern jet lining out of the sky is a lot harder than you might think. If a hole suddenly opened up in the aircraft, sure the suction would rip the guy without his seat belt and the 4 year old in seat 14B right out into space, but by and large the captain’s oxygen mask would drop down, he’d put it on, and make a beeline for 10,000 feet. There have been several examples (Qantas) of fuselage failure (Southwest) but the planes remained aloft. What will take out a plane is if the control systems (hydraulics, engines, fuel lines, fly wires etc.) are damaged, if there is separation midair (ie. Lockerbie) or if an engine is lost (Miracle on the Hudson).
My point here is not that the plane itself can be taken out by a small, rudimentary device like the one being described on Northwest 253, but the right device, with the right power, at the right place can, and it’s only a matter of time until it does.
Fourth, and most importantly, airport security is a joke. It is the illusion of safety, designed to intimidate, coddle, and elicit the illusion that you are being screened, checked out, compared to lists, and made safe. It’s all right here in the latest TSA security screening manual. For a year I traveled with a credit card sized multi-tool. The only reason I don’t anymore is because someone at IAD actually said “wait a second, what’s that?” and took it from me. On December 26 I flew from Louisville to BWI.I anticipated heavy screening. Instead the TSA officials on “high alert” were goofing off and didn’t even look at my bags as they went through the x-ray machine – as in the guy wasn’t even looking at the screen, at all, as the items sailed through.
TSA screeners are, by and large, a massive group of morons with only the slightest bit of education, intelligence, and training. Those that are trained, dedicated, and care about their job, are subjected to daily harassment, warnings against political, cultural, racial, gender, and sexual discrimination (real or imagined), vilified by the media and the public, hamstringed by the government, and by and large made ineffective and useless.
Ever traveled outside the US? I have and it’s fantastic. You will be profiled, discriminated against, and set aside. You will see heavily armed guards. You have no rights and should never expect to have any. This is not the norm, nor will it happen to everyone, but when it comes to the safety of 150 people on a jet plane, your civil liberties as you may call them, your personal rights and privacy, are nothing, and that is precisely what we should be doing in this country. We could vastly improve airport security in this country by following these easy steps, and no I didn’t come up with all of them:
1) Profile. Stop searching granny and the wheelchair and feeling up the 5 year old. Single out men and women from Middle Eastern and North African countries and those from areas of the world where terrorist activities are engaged, such as Chechnya, Yugoslavia, Venezuela, Colombia, etc. If profiling works for serial killers, shopping customers, and employment, it can work for security. But we must, and I say this with all urgency, we must be willing to close the civil liberties loop, to cut out the lawyers, and treat airports like nuclear missile sites. You are not important, we and they, are.
2) Whole-Body Imaging. What would have stopped Abdulmutallab in his tracks? Whole body imaging and scanning. Basically this is a high-tech imaging x-ray of your entire body. YOU become the one going through the machine and the screener can see everything you’ve got, and then some. Unfortunately so-called “privacy advocates” have rallied against this. Well guess what: Without this technology I can continue to sneak my sandwiches on board, and the next terrorist who packs a pound of Semtex in his undies will take a plane out of the sky.
3) TSA employees should not be federal employees, they should instead be a branch of the military, subjected to military rules, discipline, and responsibility. As a federal employee you can screw up a dozen times and not get fired. As a federal employee you are essentially guaranteed a job. Remember my anger at the postal service? If a USPS employee reaches across the counter and slaps you, the most that can be done to that employee is a referral to anger management. He will not lose his job. The same applies to TSA. The employees are our biggest weakness.
4) Fourth and finally, and this is really simple, we must reach the point in this country where we see air travel as not a “right”, or an every day thing. We must consider it a luxury, something that we are NOT entitled to. Air travel is one of the few instances where I believe the American ideal of the individual must give way to the collective. This means your civil rights are strictly limited. Your carry on item sizes are strictly enforced. Your behavior is scrutinized. Your bags and belongings are searched. You are considered a threat first, human second, passenger third, and citizen fourth. If you don’t like it, rent a car, take a bus, or get on a train. This country is too large, too free and lose with it’s immigration policies, and our government is too inept to protect you otherwise.
Now I don’t mean to harp on air travel and its security. I love flying…for the most part. I really like airports, especially the major ones like ATL, SFO, LAX, and DEN. Where else can I get a burger and fries at 7am or a waffle at 10pm? Sure we’re treated like cattle on most airlines. Sure we have to share our seat with 800 pounds of flesh, crying babies, people who haven’t’ bathed in a month, the seat in front of us cracking our knees, and all around general instabilities. But compared to the threat of a terrorist attack and those are so insignificant we really shouldn’t complain…too much… Until we’re all rich and can fly ourselves, or learn to fly, we’re stuck with it.
I’ve had it up to my upper eyelids in advertisements and banner ads yelling at me to write my member of congress. Let me give you one small piece of advice: DON’T because you’ll be wasting your time. Why do I know this? Because I use to write the letters back to you!
Within a congressional office there is at least once person called the Legislative Correspondent. The job of this person is to respond to your letters, emails and phone calls with pre-fabricated letters. Everything has been pre-written and stored in a computer system so that when your letter, call, or email arrives, they can simply piece together a response, insert standard opening and closing language, affix a printed signature at the bottom, and send it on its way. The process works like this:
1. When you call your congressional representative someone, generally an intern, takes down the gist of your thoughts in a sentence or two. They will then ask for your contact information. If you don’t give it then in most cases your comments are thrown out. If you mail a letter or email then that is then compiled with the other comments on that same issue. Either way if they have your contact information then this and your concerns/comments/letters are passed along to the Legislative Correspondent, or LC.
2. The LC’s job is to then look at those comments/letters/emails and determine if you’re a constituent. If you’re not a constituent for that member of congress then your letters/emails/concerns are thrown out. If you are a constituent then your response will be crafted from various pre-written sets of language and a response will be sent to you.
What you get one of those phone calls or letters in the mail asking you to contact your member of congress, chances are a few thousand others got it too. If you do contact your representative, the office will send you back a form letter that will be a duplicate of what they sent to everyone else who got that same message.
Offices receive a tremendous amount of calls, emails, and letters every day. Most of these are constituents spouting off and venting over something they heard or read. Unfortunately the offices generally believes you, the constituent, is just angry at something you’ve been (inaccurately) told and they have to deal with it. Your concerns become nothing more than part of an automated system designed to meet two goals:
1) Tell you enough to answer your question or concern and,
2) Write just enough so that you won’t write back.
The entire concept of contacting your representative is a farce in this highly digital, computerized, pre-fabricated age. What you say means nothing to an office, it’s how you vote and it’s what the polling data tells them. There are people paid a lot of money to sit in the district/state and gauge how you feel, who you’re going to vote for, and how likely the candidate is to get reelected. With this in mind they communicate information to the Washington office which will then adjust the message, the feel, and the votes accordingly. For every member of congress there’s at least 20-30 people with a job on the line and they will do and say whatever it takes to get the person reelected so they can keep their job.
Don’t believe me? You and a friend get together and send a letter that’s similar to the same member of congress. When you get them back, compare. The signatures will align perfectly and most of the language will be exactly the same.