September 13, 2010

Refusing To Answer The Feds

CBPArrest.jpg
you're not the boss of me


Paul Lucaks wrote a post called, "I Am Detained By The Feds For Not Answering Questions."

Imagine the rest, but here's his first sentence:

I was detained last night by federal authorities at San Francisco International Airport for refusing to answer questions about why I had traveled outside the United States.
There's a few ways to go with this, but here's a start: this article was written 4/24/2010.  It received 700+ comments.  He wrote a follow-up article to this yesterday.

"Why were you in China?" asked the passport control officer, a woman with the appearance and disposition of a prison matron.

"None of your business," I said.

Her eyes widened in disbelief.

"Excuse me?" she asked.

"I'm not going to be interrogated as a pre-condition of re-entering my own country," I said.

In other words, this is what he was thinking about on 9/11.

II.

The easy interpretation is that he is/is not an idiot for baiting the border patrol.  Yes, it's his right not to answer questions (or not to show ID at security, which I tried), but for a man who has had 5 months to reconsider his position he's apparently learned nothing.

The real question, however, is why he did this.   The only way this form of protest is meaningful is if it is done in public.  In other words, the only reason for him to do this is so that he could tell us about it.

He thinks this is a battle between himself and the border patrol as representatives of the US Government.  That would be a gigantic example of not seeing the other person, not seeing their perspective.  That border agent isn't a representative of the government, he's an employee of it.    Look at them closely-- they don't look like Dick Cheney at all.   These aren't arms of the Executive Branch that thrive on suppressing the human dignity of liberals, these are people  who enjoy Schlitz and masturbation.  Just like any other decent American.  You can't change anything by yelling at him, and Lukacs knows that.  And he doesn't care.  Lukacs is the main character in his own movie, and he is yelling at the character designated as "mean border agent." Note that he didn't bother to take the names of any of the fascists who were mauling his civil rights.  In the credits, they will appear as #1, #2, #3, etc.

Paul doesn't think he is the best or smartest or sexiest character in his movie, but it is quite evident that he thinks he is the only one.

III.

This isn't to say he's a narcissist; in some other situations he may be quite empathic and contemplative; but power dynamics trip him up emotionally, so he regresses.  If you read his article and get the feeling he's behaving a little like spoiled toddler, there you go.

IV.

Lukacs claims they have no power over him.  But Lukacs doesn't understand at all how power works; he is confusing law and power, and that confusion bought him an hour in the chairs.  "The Feds" have complete power over him.  The fact that he doesn't understand how utterly manipulated he was demonstrates this.  The moment they "led me into a waiting room with about thirty chairs" they already knew he wasn't a threat.  They knew he was just a troublemaker, specifically making trouble for the officers who were unlucky enough to have him in their line. They ran his name in a federal database.  Maybe they did a google search as well, which would return his photo and reveal that he's little more than some blowhard lawyer.

But it's at the moment they decide that he isn't a threat that the demonstration of their power begins, and he complies.  They tell him to sit, and he sits.  They tell him to follow, and he does.  They know they can't legally do anything with him, so they play with him.  "Six other people were waiting."  What did he think those six people were they doing there?  They were just like him.  They didn't answer the questions. Lukacs writes, "This must not happen often, because several of the officers involved seemed thrown by my refusal to meekly bend to their whim." Setting aside that asking the questions they are instructed to ask isn't a whim, and that not everyone who doesn't want to be inconvenienced because they value their time is "meek", he is incorrect.   It happens often enough that they built a room for it, in every airport.  With lots of chairs.

Lukacs gets it wrong because he thinks he has disrupted the process by refusing to answer.  Wrongtanomo.  That is the process.  Just a slightly less-used branch on the Process Flowchart.  The room and chairs are there because the government assumes that people will exercise their rights and not answer.  The room is exactly the same as the line he was in at first, except for a different group of people.  The room is there to remind you that it costs you something to enforce your rights (time and aggravation) and costs them nothing to impose that cost on you.

I'm not supporting or endorsing what they did to him any more than I support what he did.  But understand this, it makes no difference to the agents, this game.  They punch out at the same time everyday.  How they spend their 7.5 hours at work is largely irrelevant.  Maybe some guy was a nuisance for an hour or two.  Whatever.  They're still back home in time to get annoyed by their kids.

Lukacs thinks he is fighting the government, and the government is fighting back.  In reality, the government doesn't feel this fight at all.  Border agents do; I'm annoyed at him and I'm at home, I can imagine how they felt.  So they took what power they had, and used it.



V.

There's a subtle but powerful Strangeglovian brilliance to the system in place.  By giving the officers this permission to do what's necessary-- it subtly shifts Lukacs grievance away from the government's policy to the easily defended/"solved" actions of the agents on the ground. 

This is similar to what happens at G8 riots or political demonstrations - the demonstrators clash with police, literally instigating fights with riot police sometimes, thinking it will further their cause.  But the police don't represent the interests behind any political agenda any more than the demonstrators do.  They are there simply to maintain order while the protesters exercise their rights.  The protesters' real grievance is with people they don't dare fight in any way (including not buying their products).  So they use the supporting cast of police officers as some kind of character exposition in their movie: "in this scene, I'm a protester fighting the bad police."

Governments know this, this is the structure of power.  The more cops on the street maintaining order, the more likely the situation will decay into disorder as protesters confuse challenging the authority of the policymakers with challenging the power of the police. So they fight, and the media goes with the story that's for you: unruly protestors clashing with police, pick a side, and thereby quietly removing from the story the real and legitimate political grievance that initiated the protest in the first place.

What Lukacs doesn't realize that his legitimate desire to challenge the authority of the government was transformed into a confrontation over the reasonableness of the use of the government's power by its agents.  He isn't defending any right great or small, he's simple playing out his part in feeding the machine.

VI.

What would Lukacs have done if the border patrol agents were all robots?  Narcissistic thinking never works on robots.  A person may completely ignore how another person is thinking, but everyone always understands a robot's perspective.   With robots, it is explicitly understood that they are operating on a flowchart, that they have a definite way of thinking of their own that has nothing to do with who you think you are.   You can't force your thinking on a robot.   So Lukacs wouldn't dare disobey anything upon which he cannot impose his will.  That's why he's fighting border agents, and not the government.
---

Co-written by Pastabagel

---
 

http://twitter.com/thelastpsych


 








Comments

I'm on the fence about this... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2010 5:57 PM | Posted by Mike H: | Reply

I'm on the fence about this type of protest.. on one hand, the pragmatic side agrees with you. On the other hand, these types of "agents" have almost a net zero impact on terrorism/illegal activity in this (or probably any) country.

This room full of chairs is indicative of the number of people that refuse to answer. Do you think anyone that is actually entering the country with intent to harm its infrastructure and/or citizenry is going to end up in one of these chairs for being obstinate with a border agent?

No. The person entering will be charismatic, unassuming, and/or brief to the point that their answers will be meaningless.

Agent: Why were you in China?
Target: Vacation.
Agent: What did you visit?
Target: Great Wall of China.
Agent: You were there for two weeks, did you do that every day you were there?
Target: No, I visited several small towns and tourist destinations.

What, exactly, is the agent going to get from anyone who is planning on *intentionally* causing harm? How many terrorist plots have been foiled by this safeguard?

If nothing else, his actions in not answering questions brings to light just how stupid many of these actions are. Reminds me of flying in the 90's... no ma'am, I didn't let a stranger pack my bags for me, and if I did I certainly wouldn't be telling YOU.

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A co-writer? What happened ... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2010 6:10 PM | Posted by Dolores: | Reply

A co-writer? What happened to telling Pastabagel he should start his own blog?

http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2010/08/the_worst_thing_that_can_happe.html#more

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Am I wrong to have immediat... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2010 7:23 PM | Posted by DJMoore: | Reply

Am I wrong to have immediately thought of the "How long has it been since you got your ass kicked?" post?

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I'm actually kind of mystif... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2010 7:29 PM | Posted by Sydnew: | Reply

I'm actually kind of mystified trying to figure out what point you're trying to make here. The easiest way to break a computer/robot is to give it an answer that it's never even considered. And that's what Lukacs was trying to do. To freeze the system. Imagine if everyone did what he did. If that room was truly filled with people defending their rights. If one person after another said none of your business. We'd get our country back. And instead you think, what, that he should obey quietly and that anything else is narcissism? Yes, its true that one person alone is powerless against the fascists, but that doesn't mean that people shouldn't try to fight back. I think I feel faintly nauseous at your point of view on this one.

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Sydnew -- his point is that... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2010 7:38 PM | Posted by Sean: | Reply

Sydnew -- his point is that Lukacs utterly failed to "give the robot an answer it never even considered," as evidenced by the room, and that Lukacs is probably smart enough to know this at the time (certainly he knows it by now) but decided to do it anyways so he could play out a drama that does nothing to advance his cause, only his own personal narrative.

Where I find this post somewhat lacking, is that other than the throwaway about "not buying products" in reference to the G8 protests, he doesn't offer much of a solution for effective action. I suppose you can go my route and choose not to fly. Possibly there will be a followup post, or we're supposed to work it out for ourselves.

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i used to be just like that... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2010 7:57 PM | Posted by randy: | Reply

i used to be just like that guy, but i learned to stop trying. i guess i take some pride in that.

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Holy shit dude, what dug-in... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2010 8:32 PM | Posted by Bill: | Reply

Holy shit dude, what dug-into-the-ground bitterness, and, I think, impotence:

> While being detained, Lukacs learned that he is listed in a government database as a guy who thinks "there's some law that says you don't have to answer our questions." Ultimately, he reports, "It took half an hour and five federal officers before one of them acknowledged that I had a right not to answer their questions."

And I bet you're dragging down those who stand up for themselves, because /you wouldn't contemplate it/, your integrity is too easily side-stepped, and it shames and irritates you when someone else pulls it off (have some of your own 'high-powered perception', to steal a phrase).

Leaving you aside, it accomplishes for Lukacs: a) that he didn't cave instantly (and, happily, not at all), preserving his dignity somewhat, at least b) he reminded the local system and everyone else around that indeed, people can't be forced to answer every question, pushing back the darkness of a culture of just assuming that because of terrorism we have to now accede to petty dictatorship c) thanks to the story getting out, the people informed are the whole blogosphere.

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As always, an interesting p... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2010 8:41 PM | Posted by 300baud: | Reply

As always, an interesting post, with interesting comments.

Mike H: I don't buy the argument that border people asking questions is pointless. It's true that for some sufficiently advanced bad guy, they'll be ready. But a lot of criminals are dumb, desperate, or crazy. Although they might not catch you were you to turn to crime, you already have something better to do, so that may not matter to them.

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The effect of his article w... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2010 8:50 PM | Posted by Barry Kelly: | Reply

The effect of his article was to draw attention to itself and the narrative of the author. In that, it achieved its objective. Yes, you have to be somewhat narcissistic to have the audacity to tell a tale, to write a blog article, to think that anyone cares enough about your personal perspective to read it and be influenced by it; but narcissism isn't a vice (I point out, because you seem to love flinging around accusations of it like it is), but rather a vital component of the human personality. You wouldn't have this blog if it wasn't for your own narcissism, and I wouldn't enjoy reading it without your narcissism.

The narrative that Lucaks promulgated got some attention. It got a number of people thinking and talking about it. In time, it'll fade; but likely it'll also encourage someone else to create a similar drama. And that's a good thing. This low-rumbling drama is like a tickle, or an irritant, on the public consciousness. It creates an appetite both for more stories like it, and the desire to see changes in how civil liberties operate. If there wasn't this sensitivity to the intrusiveness of government, then it would be normalized; the new norm would give permission for the government to be even more intrusive. And the government has gotten pretty intrusive already; they're inspecting your naked body on international flights today.

In order for the democratic process to work, there ultimately needs to be a public constituency to be satisfied by government action. These stories, this narrative, feeds and grows that constituency. Without creating constituencies like this, we'd be in a lot more risk from our governments. Democratic benign governments (at least, benign as they are today) are historically aberrant, and there doesn't seem to be good reason to expect them to be stable. Vigilance is needed to prevent them from straying too far. And yes, that means narcissistic people creating drama, much though it might offend the closet fascist irritated by what he perceives as petulance.

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Apathy towards the security... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2010 9:07 PM | Posted by Charles Frith: | Reply

Apathy towards the security industrial complex is precisely why it is ballooning. It's every American's duty to confront unsanctioned or breaches of intrusion in this age. The alternative is historically documented and much more pernicious than the indignation portrayed.

By either the protagonist or the writer of this post.

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I'm a foreigner living in t... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2010 9:16 PM | Posted by Sabrina F.: | Reply

I'm a foreigner living in the US on a work visa. I know many other people in the same situation who have been to "the room" for one reason or another -- failure to show documentation to prove what they were saying, to understand the questions, to comply with the infinite bureaucracy required to enter this country. It's probably not as bad as the UK or Spain, but quite confusing. I'm pretty sure the 30 chairs are for us, not for you. Actually, I'm sure that the officers reacted in that clumsy way *because* very few Americans do what this guy did. I'm guessing officers think they can deny entry to anyone, not just non-citizens.

I think Lukacs' statement is important in that Americans are getting more and more comfortable with giving away basic rights like privacy in exchange for "national security". It also points out at how flawed the system is at providing that national security (or isn't, they did go through his bags, and he was retained for much less time than anyone I know). Yeah, there's probably a better way of stating all that, but few people are talking about it. All your post is telling me is that sometimes narcissism can be helpful.

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It's not so much the drama,... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2010 9:21 PM | Posted, in reply to Barry Kelly's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

It's not so much the drama, creating drama can be a very useful tactic when it actually achieves the desired end. It's persisting in an action (in this case drama) when it's counterproductive or useless (and wasting time that could be spend on useful action). Alone's quite rightly pointing out that making a scene in an airport doesn't actually do anything to challenge authority or power, or change anything. And, in many ways, you're actually providing justification for the system. In the case of political protest, "violent anarchists" are so integral to the official narrative that police forces have been caught planting their own "violent anarchists". It serves multiple purposes - it distracts from the protests message and paints protesters as violent, it creates fear about protesting amongst average joes and even politically active people, and the most important reason is simply to be able to justify buying weapons and spending outrageous sums of money on policing (while cutting social programs to pay for it, of course).

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@300baud: You're entitled ... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2010 9:23 PM | Posted, in reply to 300baud's comment, by Mike H: | Reply

@300baud: You're entitled to your opinion, of course. My position is that it doesn't take a "sufficiently advanced" criminal to say 'I was on vacation' or make up some other silly story that will pass them through customs just like the other thousands of people they see every day.

The criminal you described would likely be caught by anyone... a fast food employee or a mall cop, because they'd probably have crossed eyes and an IQ of 80.

Look at the rules they imposed after 9/11. You couldn't take toothpaste on a plane. Heck, you couldn't even have a spoon! It was all overreaction to make the government appear as if they were responding to a threat... and to make people *feel* like something was being done.

How many criminals have you seen caught by border agents that actually foiled any relevant criminal activity?

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"I'm not supporting or endo... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2010 9:59 PM | Posted by CC: | Reply

"I'm not supporting or endorsing what they did to him any more than I support what he did."

...

"Every man has handy a dozen glib little reasons why he is not right to sacrifice himself.
....
"As for me, I kept silent for one further reason: because those Muscovites thronging the steps of the escalators were too few for me, _too few_! Here my cry would be heard by 200 or twice 200, but what about the 200 million?...
....
"At what exact point, then, should one resist? When one's belt is taken away. When one is ordered to face into a corner? When one crosses the threshold of one's home?...
"And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say goodbye to his family?
"Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?
"The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! We did not love freedom enough."
The Gulag Archipelago (Paperback) by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Maybe you should make a judgment on what they did to him? Was it wrong? Should they quit their (secure and salaried with benefits fast out-pacing non-governmental wages) job than do it? Maybe a few things would follow? If it's not wrong, then he's a big baby and acted like a fool. If it is wrong, then he might be an ineffective Don Quixote, a type of fool, but at least he's not a coward. Maybe the type of foolishness is important.

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Who is pastabagel? Your dog... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2010 10:18 PM | Posted by America: | Reply

Who is pastabagel? Your doggy?

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A lot of controversy in the... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2010 10:46 PM | Posted by Aurini: | Reply

A lot of controversy in the comments.

As for the specifics in this case, I'm not sure where I stand. I can see Lukacs going either way on the "Shithead-Hero" scale.

But nonetheless, this is an article every civic minded individual should read. There's a place between mindless conformity and impotent protest, but it's a lot less sexy than dressing in black and firebombing a Starbucks.

However - it *works*.

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My mind is blown.S... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2010 11:08 PM | Posted by Tommy: | Reply

My mind is blown.

So how do we fight the robots/stop being narcissistic?

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Actually, the point is that... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 12:15 AM | Posted, in reply to Aurini's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Actually, the point is that throwing bricks at Starbucks windows is not really any different, or more useful or really revolutionary, than giving a security guard at the airport a hard time. It's playing the game, you're still stuck in the binary loop. It's reactionary not revolutionary, meaning it's simply a reaction and not an independent action, it changes nothing and it plays right into the prewritten script. That's why the revolution will not be televised but you can see endless simulations on the nightly news.

Doing something radical doesn't always (or perhaps never anymore really) mean doing something violent, it means doing something unexpected that changes the game, that opens people's minds wide enough that they can see beyond binary black/white thinking.

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According to Kant, the esse... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 1:57 AM | Posted by TheophileEscargot: | Reply

According to Kant, the essence of moral behaviour is to always act as if the maxim underlying your action were to become a universal rule.

In simpler terms: what if everybody did what I'm about to do?

If everyone refused to answer intrusive questions, it would be impossibly expensive to ask them.

So, this could just be a moral action, which is not always the same as being nice.

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>>Actually, the point is th... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 3:07 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Aurini: | Reply

>>Actually, the point is that throwing bricks at Starbucks windows is not really any different, or more useful or really revolutionary, than giving a security guard at the airport a hard time.

Yes - that's what I was trying to say. :)

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Raise your hand if you actu... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 7:50 AM | Posted by batl: | Reply

Raise your hand if you actually believe these agents ask those questions because they actually care about the answers.....

Those with their hands raised just don't get it....You probably think that a person administering a polygraph asks an accused murderer for the date to see if he/she would lie about that.

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Anyone else puzzled by the ... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 10:06 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Anyone else puzzled by the charge of narcissism from someone calling himself "The Last Psychiatrist"?

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@batl - I doubt many people... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 10:14 AM | Posted, in reply to batl's comment, by Mike H: | Reply

@batl - I doubt many people believe the agents are *actually* interested in what type of rum the person in question had in their pina colada while out of the country... but that's completely missing the point.

The point is these agents can't ask anything *other* than meaningless questions, in hopes that the person sitting in the chair cracks from some kind of self-imposed pressure.

Sure, this might work for some lone crazy person... for anyone who is "planning" anything, this is all but useless. Once again, I'm not seeing international terrorist rings being brought to justice by customs agents, unless I'm just missing the news results.

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Mike, fair point....please ... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 12:04 PM | Posted, in reply to Mike H's comment, by batl: | Reply

Mike, fair point....please realize, however, that these people aren't ONLY there for catching organized international terrorism rings....Among others, they trip up amateur smugglers, those facilitating illegal immigration ("really, she is my wife") and certainly other types of people looking to enter the country with less than pedestrian motives.

That being said...regarding organized terrorism, from many of the cases that I hear about (which, I choose to assume represent a small percentage of actual cases), a lot of the perpetrators seem woefully incompetent so I'm not 100% sure that some of them can't get tripped up by such unsophisticated tactics.

Bottom line: I'd rather them ask, than not and I don't mind answering.

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these people aren't ONLY... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 12:34 PM | Posted by EH: | Reply

these people aren't ONLY there for catching organized international terrorism rings....Among others, they trip up amateur smugglers, those facilitating illegal immigration ("really, she is my wife") and certainly other types of people looking to enter the country with less than pedestrian motives.

BS...passport control don't catch shit. My cursory Googling (assuming the TSA trumpets their rare successes) reveals that CBP passport control catches a handful of people a year (if that) for fake passports. That's it. Likely this is a benefit from the computerization of passports, so they just have to scan the passport and notice that a different picture comes up. VICTORY OVER TERRORISM ensues. Well, at least I'm using fewer strawmen than you did.

Also, you may not know what the actual purpose of the CBP is. This article may help:
http://www.examiner.com/county-political-buzz-in-san-diego/acting-customs-and-border-commissioner-to-retire-leaving-a-stained-legacy

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I think this post is dead w... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 2:00 PM | Posted by EB: | Reply

I think this post is dead wrong. By your logic, any time someone stands up for themselves and refuses to give in to the unreasonable demand of a government official they are being ego-centric.

By your logic, the more powerful, entrenched and implacable a system is the more ego-centric someone is being when they challenge one of its agents. Well, in the American South half a century ago, the white supremacists and racists were powerful and very well entrenched.

Would you dare write something like this about Rosa Parks:

...in some other situations [s]he may be quite empathic and contemplative; but power dynamics trip [her] up emotionally, so [she] regresses. If you ... get the feeling [s]he's behaving a little like spoiled toddler, there you go.

I would be the first to point out that the racial injustice in the South was far worse than anything being done by these customs agents. However, your logic here applies to both cases and is equally absurd in both sets of circumstances.

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I didn't get that from Alon... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 2:33 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I didn't get that from Alone's post at all - what I got is not that it's egocentric to stand up for one's own rights (and those of others) but that it's egocentric when your main agenda is is about self image/personal identity, and actually doing something useful isn't the objective. That, and Alone also seems to me to be pointing out just how ineffectual a strategy it can be if your true agenda is to change the system and what you're doing is actually reinforcing it by doing exactly what is expected. Simply having a tantrum in the box is expected by any authoritarian system, there's already a corner of the box just for you. What the system, and people who are cogs in it, can't deal with is things that are outside of box...that change the game.

Moral actions on the part of one person can sometimes galvanize people into action or become a rallying point for energy that's already present. Moral actions by one person are generally symbolic - unless the personal sacrifice does actually save a life or lives. However, moral actions by a large group of people can change the game if they simply refuse to play the game...if they/we start acting instead of just reacting. There's no guarantee that it'll be a better game. Even if it's on a meta-level, we're still talking about relationships and relationship dynamics - and it does take two to tango.

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EB - you missed the point, ... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 2:43 PM | Posted, in reply to EB's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

EB - you missed the point, this guy is no Rosa Parks, he sat exactly where he was told to sit.

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Food For Thought:(... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 3:24 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Food For Thought:

(1) It does not matter to Lucaks whether his actions are the best way to achieve an ideological reform of what he perceives to be oppressive government policies-> "Lucaks thinks this is a battle between himself and the border patrol as representatives of the US Government"... "Lukacs gets it wrong because he thinks he has disrupted the process by refusing to answer" Both two excellent insights by TLP on the objective reality of the situation, but his follow-up arguments deflect from the central point: Lukacs thinks. By refusing to comply with basic airline procedures and (possibly) ruining the day of various airline officials (in retrospect they were probably amused and grateful for an eventful altercation in an otherwise routine day on the job) Lucaks believes that he has struck a deadly blow to government corruption and abuse of power in his own subjective and narcissistic universe. "it costs you something to enforce your rights (time and aggravation) and costs them nothing to impose that cost on you" -> not exactly

(2) Lucaks is an annoying distaction, a spectacle, entertainment, 5 minutes of wasted time in the lives of every person who was affected by his tirade at the airport. Certainly he as a person, with feelings and beliefs, does not exist to an airport of strangers. Was his tirade a moral or immoral act? Maybe all the observers were glad for a spectacle worthy of a street performance, and perhaps a reality show about airport jerks would be created featuring parodies of Steven Slater and Lucaks. Or perhaps Lucaks was an infantile jerk who inconvenienced everyone at the airport who had impatient families waiting to bereunited with their loved ones. You decide.

(3) Say Lucaks was to arouse similar rebellious feelings in a majority of American people through his solitary demonstations. In this parallel universe, the 28th amendment is introduced protecting 1st amendment rights in american airports, and Chuck Norris writes this amendment himself by taking a leak on the Constitution. The government still emerges victorious, because the government has successfully conformed to public opinion. The government remains in power; the rules and policies do not matter. "Make that new Justin Beiber song into the new national anthem!" ... Ok, we'll add it into the Constitution, but you're all going to hell for being traitors. The people get what they want, the government remains in power, so it's a win-win situation. The problem with Lucaks is that he brought emotions into the equation-> there is no use being angry at government policy. What Lucaks should have done was ask the customs official politely not to ask any questions, and perhaps write a letter to her commending all her hard work; politeness is certainly more effective than anger in compelling people to do things against their will.

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Well, at least I'... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 3:26 PM | Posted, in reply to EH's comment, by Aron: | Reply

Well, at least I'm using fewer strawmen than you did.

If there's anything the War on Straw has taught us, it's that there's no such thing as too much straw.

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Why can't he just be pissed... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 3:41 PM | Posted by Avu: | Reply

Why can't he just be pissed off? I act like that when I'm pissed off. I once was so pissed off and drunk, that when I was in the police station and they asked for ID, I threw it to them as hard as I could. I didn't think. I never thought I was fighting the power or anything and there's no way I can say I were mistreated before - or after that by them, they just stopped having a conversation with me after that and threw me in jail. I didn't feel heroic either, I was just pissed off and in the moment I felt good for doing that.

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When Rosa refused to sit at... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 3:43 PM | Posted, in reply to EB's comment, by Kyle: | Reply

When Rosa refused to sit at the back of the bus, there was no back-of-the-back-of-the-bus set aside for people like her.

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Heh, the Hemingway quote th... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 4:15 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Heh, the Hemingway quote that seems to be the title of the dude's blog is like a big neon sign flashing "narcissist". Is there a man out there who fancies himself as some contemporary Hemingway who isn't sorely deluded and in love with a false image of himself?

The other highly hilarious (and telling) thing is that this guy's blog is meant to be about travelling in Asia and he's writing about coming back from China. Bet he wasn't mouthing off to any border guards in Asia...why? Because they don't just put you in a room for a quiet time out and this guy knows that. But, then, his understanding of the world seems to be about that of a five year old. Who doesn't know that people in positions of authority who wear uniforms don't like their authority being challenged? One can only assume this is the first time in his life that he's ever challenged authority and he only really cares now because it's all about him. Also, dude has a travel blog and he's just realized that border guards write down shit about people? My guess would be that he's busy kissing ass when he crosses borders in Asia but felt safe enough - knowing the consequences are essentially being told to sit in a corner for a couple of hours - to play big man in this case.

Seriously, you're comparing this guy to Rosa Parks? It's not Alone that should be ashamed, it's you who should be ashamed for trying to equate this guy and his actions with her.

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I think he did this in orde... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 4:37 PM | Posted by dfp: | Reply

I think he did this in order to get attention for it, in hopes that other people will be inspired to do it too. He's trying to attract attention to the problem that 99% of what the government does in the name of "security" is a complete waste, or even makes us less safe. He knows the people at the security checkpoint are robots; he's trying to attract attention to the problem that the people programming the robots are idiots.

Maybe they are annoyed; that just gives them a reason to try and change the system too.

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If a man with a perfect, pr... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 4:58 PM | Posted by Francis W. Porretto: | Reply

If a man with a perfect, predetermined right to enter the country declines to answer intrusive questions about where he's been or why, he's merely exercising the same right an accused criminal is informed he possesses under the Miranda decision, and must be left to go his way. That's the law, "Last Psychiatrist" -- and those customs agents et alii violated it egregiously by detaining him against his will.

We need more assertive citizens like Paul Lukacs.

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well, in his blog, he state... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 7:13 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by pops: | Reply

well, in his blog, he states that he always listens to physical request - show ID, give/open bag, stand/sit here. He draws the line at request that are not legal. There is no law that one must verbally answer their questions. That's why they let him go - the senior officer states that he legally doesn't have to answer the questions.

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Kinda like security guards ... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 8:27 PM | Posted, in reply to EH's comment, by batl: | Reply

Kinda like security guards in a bank, no? They're not REALLY there to thwart a robbery are they? Yet, I'd rather have them there than not.

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"If a man with a perfect, p... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 8:32 PM | Posted, in reply to Francis W. Porretto's comment, by batl: | Reply

"If a man with a perfect, predetermined right to enter the country declines to answer intrusive questions about where he's been or why, he's merely exercising the same right an accused criminal is informed he possesses under the Miranda decision, and must be left to go his way. "

If a cop stops me for fitting the vague description of a suspected violent criminal and he asks me if I did it---you are right---I don't HAVE to answer that question right then....but somehow in that scenario, I don't REALLY think I'm making a statement about my legal rights....I'm just being an asshole to my own detriment.

This is the point.

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"He thinks this is a battle... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 9:45 PM | Posted by anononymous: | Reply

"He thinks this is a battle between himself and the border patrol as representatives of the US Government. That would be a gigantic example of not seeing the other person, not seeing their perspective. That border agent isn't a representative of the government, he's an employee of it"

As a border agent, he is a representative of the gov't. There is an asymmetric power relationship here; the border agent can arrest Paul, while Paul cannot arrest the border agent. If you presume that an individual is responsible for their own actions, then the border agent, in assuming the power associated with their position, is also assuming the responsibility of the position. Specifically, the bit about defending the constitution of the United States.

Off duty, sure, the border agent can drink his Schlitz; on duty, the systematic shirking of their primary duty indicates a trend that we ought be sending a large fraction of federal employees to Leavenworth. Or perhaps ADX Florence, for the supervisor who hasn't gotten the message through to border agents on the line.

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So many anaemic comments of... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 10:16 PM | Posted by Charles Frith: | Reply

So many anaemic comments of the variety "I don't know where I stand", "I'm neither here nor there", "I see both sides of the coin" as if hedging your bets in case The Patriot Act is invoked.

You're flushing your historically famous liberty down the drain and cowardly remaining neutral like German neighbours ignoring the Jews being led away. "We had no idea".

If you don't stand for something. You don't stand for anything at all.

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"He isn't defending any rig... (Below threshold)

September 15, 2010 1:32 AM | Posted by His Shadow: | Reply

"He isn't defending any right great or small, he's simple playing out his part in feeding the machine."

Should have assaulted an officer or set a booth on fire?

He stood up for his rights. Your insipid article attempting to paint his assertion of his rights as kowtowing to the machine anyway is... Jesus, I don't know what it is. Other than simply trying to ride the coattails of another's web traffic.

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With the exception of North... (Below threshold)

September 15, 2010 4:24 AM | Posted, in reply to anononymous's comment, by Gil: | Reply

With the exception of North Carolina, Paul can make a citizen arrest.

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Have you ever been to that ... (Below threshold)

September 15, 2010 8:31 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Have you ever been to that room? I have been to that room several times. It's not made for people who don't answer questions.. it's made for people whose answers they dont like, whether complete or not. That includes answers like: where did you go?

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Ya know, what people aren't... (Below threshold)

September 15, 2010 9:39 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Ya know, what people aren't getting when they think Alone is saying "don't stand up for yourself" (when that doesn't actually appear to be what he's saying, particularly if you consider this post in the context of his other posts) is that if you're the other side of the coin, you're still the coin.

If you're mentally imprisoned by binary thinking - you can't think of a third or forth possibility (which also means you have no imagination, which is necessary for problem solving) - then you're stuck in exactly the psychological space needed to support the official narrative (and to sell you shit, whether it's ideas or stuff). There's no need for an actual physical prison if your mind is captive. You're already envisioning yourself as a player in the official narrative that's promoted by the media (and religion when it was the medium to influence the masses) - is it black or white? Good or evil? Friend or foe? It's a limiting narrative that tries to make sure people don't think critically and notice, hey, that's an orange cat not a black or white one! My god, it's orange AND brown AND grey! Nor do they recognize the complexity of human nature and how we construct "good" and "evil", and why we do it (as individuals or groups). Or that sometimes the other person/people/group/nation are neither friend nor foe, they have an existence outside of their relationship with us and it's more complex than that. It's about limiting thinking to a binary game of cognitive ping pong. And it's particularly about destroying the sort of subtle, real world nuances that make it harder to go "me good, them evil".

The reality is that if you don't recognize that the border guard or cop is another human being then you're no different than the petty official who (or system that) doesn't see you as a human. Uniforms are, of course, actually intended to erase the individuality of the people who wear them (be it a maid's uniform or a cop's). And cops and soldiers are trained very explicitly to be able to ignore the humanity of those they deal with (sure these professions attract sociopaths, just as many other professions that can offer power over others do, but they also put a lot of effort into training their workers to ignore the humanity of others). Border guards at airports, not so much I'd imagine since they're generally not expected to be shooting a lot of people. Sometimes the most radical thing you can do is treat someone as a human being - particularly someone who has been dehumanized and who deals with people's prejudices constantly (be they an addict or a cop). I'm no fan of the police/military/etc forces in general, and it's a system that encourages abuses of power, but I recognize that simply being the other side of the coin they've minted means you're playing their game. You want a different game? Then you've got to change it and not just reinforce the game by playing your preordained part.

This particular blogger obviously builds his identity on the mythology of who Hemingway was (which isn't the reality of him as a person), so his fake/narcissistic identity is actually built upon an equally fake/narcissistic identity...it's turtles upon turtles.

Rosa Parks changed the game because she didn't sit where she was told to on the bus - she stood up to a whole society and history of oppression. Mr I-want-to-be-Hemingway, who thinks he's running with the bulls when he's being shunted off to sit in the corner like a child until his tantrum runs out steam, didn't challenge society or a history of oppression. He simply had a tantrum that changes absolutely nothing and is so NOT radical that the response is built into the system. Then he tried to puff himself up on his blog. He knew that there were no real consequences, just a bit of boredom. Rosa Parks had no way of knowing she wouldn't be lynched. There's nothing like when a university educated, straight, white guy tries to make out that his personal discomfort and a narcissistic affront is somehow equivalent to the very real oppression that still exists.

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I'm actually kind of mys... (Below threshold)

September 15, 2010 4:49 PM | Posted, in reply to Sydnew's comment, by Reader: | Reply

I'm actually kind of mystified trying to figure out what point you're trying to make here. The easiest way to break a computer/robot is to give it an answer that it's never even considered. And that's what Lukacs was trying to do. To freeze the system.
Bullshit. Lukacs was attempting to enforce his constitutional right to privacy, to prove a point and to leave his mark on the general political landscape.

This system is next to impossible to freeze. There are only so many responses, and they are not broken down in the nice way an Indian help desk screen is. There are four basic options.
1. Compliance
2. Passive-aggressive avoidance
3. Resistance
4. Aggression

Option 1 gets you through and Option 4 gets you imprisoned/dead. Option 2 gets you stern looks until it becomes 1 or 3, and Option 3 gets you in the nice little room.

Imagine if everyone did what he did. If that room was truly filled with people defending their rights. If one person after another said none of your business. We'd get our country back.
We'd get crowds of unruly people. They would get more guys with guns and make more people wait. That's how it works. Eventually, social pressure from those being inconvenienced would stop the tide, and everything would return to normal.

What if, instead of clogging up an existing system, people simply removed themselves from the system? What if a large proportion of people moved "off grid"? The system cannot be short circuited because the system is the only way for people to do the things they want.

Lukacs fed the beast the second he willingly put himself in a position to come in contact with border security. Protesters fed the beast the second they start yelling at the cops. All of these provide a simple point of failure that the beast can fix to placate the disgruntled masses.

The only way to kill this beast is to stop feeding it. Don't give it anything to fix - just make it obsolete.

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Wow. So if you can't deal d... (Below threshold)

September 15, 2010 11:34 PM | Posted by Marc de Piolenc: | Reply

Wow. So if you can't deal directly with the people at the top, you shouldn't resist any government encroachment?
Thing is, most of us who are treated like cattle or criminals don't have access to the top echelons of what passes for American government. Does that mean we should not resist? I don't think so.
The people at the bottom - baggage-rippers and immigration snoops - are the interface with the suffering public. If they can be trained to remember their manners - and I remember when Federal agents were polite, even if they were placing you under arrest - then the actual experience of millions of people can be improved. I think that is a goal worth pursuing.

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You aren't "[...] just bein... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 12:57 AM | Posted, in reply to batl's comment, by der Sherpa: | Reply

You aren't "[...] just being an asshole to [your] own detriment" by not answering an officer's questions. Nothing you say to an officer can be used to make your life better. If it is used, it can only be used against you, in criminal prosecution or something of the sort.

Give this video a watch, then reply as to the pointless of Lukacs assertion of his right.

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Well if we're going to read... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 1:09 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by der Sherpa: | Reply

Well if we're going to read minds about catchy things people put at the top of blogs, TLP must believe herself to be the next Wittgenstein.

Or, perhaps, it's offered as an interesting metaphor for the actual content of the blog. But that certainly couldn't be it...

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Well if we're going to read... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 1:10 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by der Sherpa: | Reply

Well if we're going to read minds about catchy things people put at the top of blogs, TLP must believe himself to be the next Wittgenstein.

Or, perhaps, it's offered as an interesting metaphor for the actual content of the blog. But that certainly couldn't be it...

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"Nothing you say to an offi... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 6:09 AM | Posted, in reply to der Sherpa's comment, by batl: | Reply

"Nothing you say to an officer can be used to make your life better."

Actually, honestly telling the agent that "I was in China on vacation." makes my life better because I don't have to sit in a room for 4 hours instead of going to my home.

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The questions are irrelevan... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 7:43 AM | Posted by dymphna: | Reply

The questions are irrelevant, beyond the cursory tripping up of idiots. They take up the time required for the facial recognition software to do its job (the passport matching is near simultaneous).

Jeez, people. Get with the program.

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Your life isn't better, it ... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 9:19 AM | Posted, in reply to batl's comment, by der Sherpa: | Reply

Your life isn't better, it simply isn't any worse than it would have been had the questions not been asked. By answering his or her questions, you are not suddenly given a pony or a new Camaro.

But the point that you'd not have to spend the time in the holding area is certainly valid. It is not always in everyone's best interest to take on every fight; martyrdom is generally not desirable as you lose the ability to really affect change (unless it's the kind of martyrdom MLK Jr. experienced).

But we do need to enforce our desire to keep our varied rights, and to disparage someone when he was in the position to take that on is disappointing.

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@dymbphna - How does that a... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 9:29 AM | Posted, in reply to dymphna's comment, by Mike H: | Reply

@dymbphna - How does that account for the fact that the government has been asking these types of questions years (decades) before the advent of facial recognition software?

I believe you are the one that needs to "get with the program" if you think facial recognition software works like it does in Hollywood movies.

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What about the benefit he d... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 9:38 AM | Posted by George Donnelly: | Reply

What about the benefit he derived personally from standing up for himself? In these times of huge powerful institutions, one can feel powerless to effect change. Perhaps he stands up in order to make himself feel less powerless.

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You're right - facial recog... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 9:45 AM | Posted, in reply to Mike H's comment, by Barry Kelly: | Reply

You're right - facial recognition software works much better than it does in Hollywood movies, just like phone traces also don't need someone to stay on the line, etc.

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"But the point that you'd n... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 9:48 AM | Posted, in reply to der Sherpa's comment, by batl: | Reply

"But the point that you'd not have to spend the time in the holding area is certainly valid. It is not always in everyone's best interest to take on every fight"

That is one of the points that several people (including me) have been trying to make:
1. Standing up for your rights when your life is adversely affected in a way that has the potential to spur change is a valid cause. But as several have pointed out---not answering some cursory questions when you have nothing to hide, doesn't get you there. It just demonstrates "asshole-like" behavior and takes up your own time.
2. You don't HAVE to answer the questions, but the agents SHOULD do their job and make an assessment of whether your entry is lawful. While they have you sitting in the room, they MIGHT be checking your name with a host of other agencies (NSA, CIA, FBI, etc.). They also MIGHT be sharing a bottle of scotch---who knows. The governing criteria of which activity they engage in is likely whether or not you come off as a threat or an asshole. To give them the opportunity to do either by not answering their basic questions with no clear path toward advancement of your "cause" just wastes your own time.
3. If you happen to be one for which this cause is important (which is fine) and have 4 hrs to kill, I've gotta think there are more productive methods by which you can bring this "injustice" to light and work toward having it changed.
4. At some point, you have to recognize that certain processes/procedures are not necessarily set up to infringe on your rights, rather to protect the country/public. As a law-abiding citizen, I can certainly make an assessment of the value to me of complying with the process (and waiving my right to silence) versus lawful non-compliance and the value that I place on my own time or (possibly) the benefits of lawful non-compliance. In this instance, there were no apparent benefits to Lucaks' actions. I'd be curious to know what the expected benefits were...how did he EXPECT/HOPE this to play out.

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@batl - I agree with most o... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 9:54 AM | Posted, in reply to batl's comment, by Mike H: | Reply

@batl - I agree with most of your points, but the fact remains that the *law* says that we have the right not to answer unlawful questions (or unreasonable search and seizure.) If a law-abiding citizen of this country wishes to leave and re-enter this country, they shouldn't be made to feel like criminals when doing so.

This person didn't disobey any laws, and the people taking him in for questioning were just flexing their authority because they have *nothing* better to do. If they thought they *really* might catch a criminal, they'd never take this person to "the room" in the first place! They'd have their sites set on the next person entering the country, in hopes that they'd nab their next bad guy.

Their bullying highlights exactly how useful they are.

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"What about the benefit he ... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 9:58 AM | Posted, in reply to George Donnelly's comment, by batl: | Reply

"What about the benefit he derived personally from standing up for himself? In these times of huge powerful institutions, one can feel powerless to effect change. Perhaps he stands up in order to make himself feel less powerless."

That's fine....he's well within his rights to place a value on his time...the point was that he suggested that he was under the impression that his actions were somehow beneficial to the greater good.

Since this is his cup of tea....I would suggest he exercise is right by dressing up in clown makeup and camouflage and stand in front of the white house singing "Mary Had a Little Lamb" through a megaphone...Then when the police/secret service come to question him, he can exercise his rights to say nothing and enjoy his detention feeling powerful.

Now THAT'S making a statement (and being an asshole, btw).

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batl, you're descending int... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 10:11 AM | Posted by George Donnelly: | Reply

batl, you're descending into a tangent. Monday morning quarterbacks don't get a lot of respect for a good reason. And that's what you're doing in your final paragraph - monday morning quarterbacking. If you can do it better, lead the way by example. At least this gentleman is trying. So few are.

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The bit you quoted sorta ne... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 10:15 AM | Posted, in reply to batl's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

The bit you quoted sorta needs the next graph for context.

1. Not answering some cursory question because you have nothing to hide is exactly the point. The notion that only people with evil to hide will/should abstain from answering is fallacious and indicative of a collusion to abandon that right. What you've done while you're away is no business of the government's, plain and simple.

2. We agree that they should do their jobs. However, the environment around the subject being questioned at the stand is too varied and unpredictable to control against, and many "clues" they should be picking up will be either missed or misinterpreted. This is a reason an interrogation happens in a sparse, neutral, quiet room. Control the environment, then observe the subject.

The efficacy of the questioning is dubious at best.

3. Would it be more effective for a bunch of people to call a senator or to make asking the questions encumbering enough that they stop being asked? I'm not sure myself.

Interrogating foreign nationals, that I'm out on. But citizens of the United States, born here or naturalized, must not be treated as such.

4. If you read a few of his followup posts he explains what his intentions and expectations were.

And, please pardon my glibness, but no one on this board is a "law-abiding" citizen. It's trite, but if you drive over the speed limit, neglect a turn signal on the highway, don't stop 15 feet from a crosswalk at a red light, just to name three common practices, you're a criminal.

We're all criminals, technically. The YouTube video I linked to above is pretty enlightening; the second half, when the police officer talks about how he gets confessions from everyone and how he uses them even more so.

To paraphrase him, when he was a patrol officer, all he had to do was follow someone long enough and they would do something illegal to give him justification to pull that person over.

Think of CBP as a police officer. Even if you're completely innocent and only tell the truth, they might have some information that ties you (perhaps incorrectly) to an incident, at which point they can pursue some doubt that you lied to federal agents (whether you actually did or not).

Please, hit up that video and have a watch. It'll maybe temper your opinion.

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"If you can do it better, l... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 10:17 AM | Posted, in reply to George Donnelly's comment, by batl: | Reply

"If you can do it better, lead the way by example. At least this gentleman is trying. So few are."

The better way is:
1. to answer the basic questions if you have nothing to hide (in theory, I don't HAVE to walk through the metal detector either because I find it uneccesarily intrusive---but they don't have to let me fly either)
2. realize why these officials are there
3. exercise your right to access to your representation in congress and engage your representative to help you take up your cause. If your representative feels differently, vote for one who has the same values or run for office yourself.


Giving him "credit" for trying is like lauding me for flapping my arms and trying to fly.


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That was by me, btw - thing... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 10:18 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by der Sherpa: | Reply

That was by me, btw - thing didn't pick up my name.

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@batl - Herein lies the big... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 10:19 AM | Posted, in reply to batl's comment, by Mike H: | Reply

@batl - Herein lies the biggest problem:
2. realize why these officials are there

They are demonstrating that they are "there" in order to hassle people, not to effect any *real* change. If they even believed their own nonsense, they would act differently. They flex their muscle when they can because they have absolutely nothing better to do... they know they aren't catching anyone, just like we know it.

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It's not that I don't want ... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 10:49 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by batl: | Reply

It's not that I don't want to watch the video, but I can't access YouTube from the network that I'm on...but I trust that it shows what you've described: "Bad cops (and border agents, for that matter), do indeed exist." Are they the rule rather than the exception? Honestly, I don't know...but I'd tend to think not.

As I pointed out in another post in so many words---Why did Lucaks even bother going through the metal detector? Why not pick that point to exercise his right to not be forced to show the contents of his baggage and pockets? (which is REALLY being "treated like a criminal") If he felt SOOOOOOOOO strongly, then he would've just stayed in the US and continued trying to change the system.

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Why yes, they have been usi... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 11:17 AM | Posted, in reply to Mike H's comment, by dymphna: | Reply

Why yes, they have been using facial recognition software for decades. It is a well known fact that the Israelis are the most skilled purveyors of it in the world. It is called HUMINT. In other words, people watching. Never assume that a passport control officer is either an idiot or not paying attention to the person they are screening.

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@dymphna - That applies to ... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 11:19 AM | Posted, in reply to dymphna's comment, by Mike H: | Reply

@dymphna - That applies to American international airports where thousands (tens of thousands?) pass by in droves every day... how, exactly?

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it's not that bad cops exis... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 11:40 AM | Posted, in reply to batl's comment, by der Sherpa: | Reply

it's not that bad cops exist, it's that cops exist in general.

It's a 45 min. law school lecture at, I think, the University of Virginia. First half is the ex-defense attorney/professor explaining why it's never good to talk to cops.

Second half is a well-regarded 28-year veteran of the Virginia Beach police force who starts his bit (and the professor says he hadn't had preparatory conversations with the cop, take that how you will) by saying that the professor was 100% on - he qualifies that he never made attempts to put innocent people in jail, then goes on to explain how any words transferred between you and an officer work against you. He further explains a number of his tactics for eliciting information.

This whole line of conversation is probably now off topic, so I'll close with what probably sums up the situation best. From the officer, paraphrased:

Somehow it's decided that you're going to put a wager on yourself and hop in the boxing ring. You've never boxed before, but the person across from you is a Golden Gloves champ. You're going to lose. I've interviewed thousands of suspects, you've never been interviewed. You're going to lose."

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"Somehow it's decided that ... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 11:47 AM | Posted, in reply to der Sherpa's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

"Somehow it's decided that you're going to put a wager on yourself and hop in the boxing ring. You've never boxed before, but the person across from you is a Golden Gloves champ. You're going to lose. I've interviewed thousands of suspects, you've never been interviewed. You're going to lose."

If you've actually committed a crime then, yes, you should ALWAYS clam up. I couldn't agree with that more.

Are you also in the "snitches wear stiches" camp?

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Well, he only had to wait 3... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 12:41 PM | Posted, in reply to batl's comment, by pops: | Reply

Well, he only had to wait 30 minutes, not 4 hours.

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"Well, he only had to wait ... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 1:20 PM | Posted, in reply to pops's comment, by batl: | Reply

"Well, he only had to wait 30 minutes, not 4 hours."

i stand corrected...I guess he made his point, then.

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You're offering a silly arg... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 2:17 PM | Posted, in reply to batl's comment, by der Sherpa: | Reply

You're offering a silly argument there, come on. Deciding to exercise a provided freedom does not require that he stops his entire life, live out of a van and parade the country demanding that he not be asked questions by the "gub'ment."

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HUMINT stands for Human Int... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 2:19 PM | Posted, in reply to dymphna's comment, by der Sherpa: | Reply

HUMINT stands for Human Intelligence, or, the collection of interesting information on people.

HUMINT may be stored in a database that is accessed by a piece of software, but it does not stand for "facial recognition software".

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agreed...whole-heartedly...... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 2:19 PM | Posted by batl: | Reply

agreed...whole-heartedly....but exercising a little discretion on when/where/how to exercise that freedom, would likely serve him (and others) well in the future...

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Well, it's not a perfect sy... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 2:30 PM | Posted, in reply to Mike H's comment, by der Sherpa: | Reply

Well, it's not a perfect system (as many people still have non-RFID passports) but this is how I'd do it:

1. On approach, passenger manifests for international flights are queued in a CBP database.

2. A software system makes calls against the national passport registry and calls up the records of the people whose names are queued up.

3. The CBP stores the records in a local server.

4. When passengers land, they of course walk up to their respective customs lines.

5. Each station has a discrete camera covering the general view of where the passenger will stop, and the officer's podium-thing has an RFID reader built-in.

6. When you give the officer your passport, they place it on their podium to have a look.

7. The podium reads the RFID chip in your passport and makes a call to the database for your record.

8. The facial-recognition software looks at the picture in your record and compares it to your actual face. (The software can often do a decent job correcting for changes in hair)

9. Either the person at the podium or a supervisor remotely receives a match reliability report, saying how closely you match your record.

10. If the match % is below the level required by their business rules, a "further investigation" flag would be tripped and the officer would process you to a secondary queue.

Now, I think this is currently rubbish because I know the bureaucratic nonsense around CBP would make such a system hella slow to adopt, and of course won't work for the still-present (but shrinking) group of people with non-RFID passports. But, there you have it.

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Seriously, you should watch... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 2:41 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by der Sherpa: | Reply

Seriously, you should watch the video.

Think Pascal's Wager:

1. If there is a God and you believe in God, when you die you go to heaven. If there is a God and you don't believe in God, when you die you go to hell.

2. If there isn't a God and you believe in God, when you die nothing happens. If there isn't a God and you don't believe in God, when you die nothing happens.

The conclusion of course being, God or not, not believing means Hell or nothing, but believing means Heaven or nothing. Heaven and nothing are better than Hell, so one should choose the option that provides the best chance for favorable outcomes.

Choose to talk and either nothing happens or they have something which, innocent or guilty, may be used against you.

Choose not to talk and, while the chance for immediate inconvenience increases, WRT the more serious threat of legal action, your own admissions cannot be used against you, which significantly outweighs the damaging potential of punishment (i.e., you sat in an interview room for a half hour, versus going to jail for months or years on a bad conviction).

That said, of course you should certainly not violate law in your silence, but he didn't violate laws. CBP have the legal authority to search your person and possessions, which he allowed them to do. This includes going through bags and those dreaded X-Ray scanners; legal.

But there is no legal compulsion to answer their questions.

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@der Sherpa - You realized ... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 2:43 PM | Posted, in reply to der Sherpa's comment, by Mike H: | Reply

@der Sherpa - You realized you just used an argument (Pascal's wager/gambit) that has been debunked a thousand different ways, right?

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I'm a romantic :)... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 2:58 PM | Posted, in reply to Mike H's comment, by der Sherpa: | Reply

I'm a romantic :)

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It begs ignorance to many v... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 3:04 PM | Posted, in reply to Mike H's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

It begs ignorance to many variables, and so it not completely sound, but most of the debunking revolves around specific aspects of faith, which are irrelevant here.

So, it's maybe an "ok" support, versus the declarations of personal feelings that have dominated most of the thread.

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I guess we differ in our op... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 3:10 PM | Posted by Mike H: | Reply

I guess we differ in our opinion of what constitutes "ok" support for an argument then. I suspect your comparison is also ignoring too many variables to be of any real value here.

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Just as a note, it's Strang... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 5:21 PM | Posted by Eneasz: | Reply

Just as a note, it's StrangeLove, not StrangeGlove (lots of people make that mistake)

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You're an idiot. The argume... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 6:33 PM | Posted, in reply to Mike H's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

You're an idiot. The argument was used for illustrative purposes, to show how talking to the police is at best a breakeven-lose situation. The point being made had nothing to do with theology.

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I'm the idiot for pointing ... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 6:36 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Mike H: | Reply

I'm the idiot for pointing out that you didn't account for variables other than just "if you talk you lose nothing?"

If you believe you accounted for all variables in your parable, perhaps you should double check your notes on who is the idiot in this situation.

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Variables in parables are t... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 11:47 PM | Posted, in reply to Mike H's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Variables in parables are terrible. Since I'm not sure exactly what your position is, let me just outline why talking to the police is almost always a bad idea:

1) If your statement is persuasive, you might save yourself a little bit of hassle, but having a good interview doesn't give you points in the rest of an investigation, and doesn't help you in court.

2) Under some circumstances (such as during an investigation) providing a false statement is an additional crime. Clinton, Blagojevich, Enron: what do they have in common? Their biggest legal problem wasn't the actual misdeeds they were investigated for, it was obstruction of justice and related things.

3) The police are almost always going to be better at conducting an interview and getting subjectively incriminating responses than you are at projecting innocence. Additionally, if you end up admitting to something else unrelated, you'll get in trouble for that, even if the primary cause of the interview was for something completely different.

4) You can't be penalized for non-cooperation; that's harassment.

5) The police want to catch someone for a crime; their job fosters a tendency to disbelieve suspects, so cooperating leaves you more exposed than if you'd just stayed silent.

Those are if the cops are honest, and you're not guilty. If the cops are willing to bend the law to make their case, or you've actually done something, then you absolutely should not talk to the cops, at least not without a lawyer present.

That's it: there's no variables. It might be faster if you're talking to customs agents, but even then, so long as you haven't knowingly done wrong, it's not a bad idea to just stay silent and let them search.

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"...quietly removing from t... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2010 1:25 AM | Posted by someone: | Reply

"...quietly removing from the story the real and legitimate political grievance that initiated the protest in the first place."

Lol. They have no legitimate grievances, they just want to smash shit up and disturb the peace.

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I'm aware what HUMINT is, a... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2010 3:01 AM | Posted, in reply to der Sherpa's comment, by dymphna: | Reply

I'm aware what HUMINT is, and what it stands for. The brain is a great big piece of software. HUMINT is used in addition to computer software. Which is, contrary to much of what people here seem to believe or recognize, quite good, functional, and operational in most international airports. I chose to point out HUMINT as an example of "technology" that has been around for decades.

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There was a time in my life... (Below threshold)

September 18, 2010 10:28 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

There was a time in my life I wanted to be a law enforcement officer. I attended the police academy and applied to several agencies but was never accepted. Based on what I saw I can tell you:

1) The best and brightest don't become police officers. Some of my fellow students barely made it out of high school. Their grammar was atrocious. I have read actual police reports. The officer had, at best, a seventh grade writing ability.
2) People lie on their applications to get the job. I know of people who bought/sold drugs and now are officers. People with gang affiliations are officers.
3) Even people who admit to using hard drugs and committing crimes become officers. There is one police chief who admitted on their application to do cocaine over 100 times but still became police chief. I know of a deputy sheriff who was arrested for shoplifting and is now a property crimes investigator.
4) During the academy, there was an instructor who was known to sleep with students. Another instructor helped some students with their studying for an exam.

My experiences have taught me to be very suspicious of them. I have lost a lot of respect for them.

They are not the good guys who are full of integrity and honesty that they claim to be.

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btw, someone else posted th... (Below threshold)

September 18, 2010 11:29 AM | Posted, in reply to Mike H's comment, by der Sherpa: | Reply

btw, someone else posted the followup anon bits - frustrating that this blog's commenting system has not form of authentication.

If you felt that the religious objections to the specific case of the God example ruin the more general form of the argument (beyond adding subjectively less-influential variables), then there's no reason for that other anon to have called you an idiot. Wasn't a reason anyways, but particularly not for that assertion.

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And this is why people don'... (Below threshold)

September 18, 2010 9:19 PM | Posted by Mark: | Reply

And this is why people don't trust psychiatrists either.

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Never start a sentence with... (Below threshold)

September 19, 2010 9:16 AM | Posted, in reply to Mark's comment, by Z. Constantine: | Reply

Never start a sentence with a conjunction - other people will find your comments hard to read if the mechanics of language are not observed.

And it makes people distrust you, Mark.

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>"The real question, howeve... (Below threshold)

September 20, 2010 10:01 AM | Posted by Max: | Reply

>"The real question, however, is why he did this. The only way this form of protest is meaningful is if it is done in public. In other words, the only reason for him to do this is so that he could tell us about it."

Isn't documenting the incident and posting to his blog one of the more public forms of protestation these days? For god's sake, you wrote another blog post ABOUT his protest. You're way too quick to lay down the "narcissist" card... His actions were effective enough for you to republish them then deconstruct them into selfish motives to fit the mantra of this blog, which is honestly becoming far too zealous about prescribing narcissism as the problem with everything.

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This post is further eviden... (Below threshold)

September 21, 2010 2:47 PM | Posted by skeptic: | Reply

This post is further evidence of you projecting your narcissism on to others to defend yourself from the shame that person's coduct inflicts on you.
You have progressively been able to unearth your basic defense. All that remains is for you to accept the legitimacy of the question: what does calling lukcas a narcissist do for you?

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Reminds me of Five Easy Pie... (Below threshold)

September 21, 2010 3:40 PM | Posted by rap1950: | Reply

Reminds me of Five Easy Pieces where the Nicholson character, a little rich kid playing poor boy, treats a powerless waitress like dirt rather then complain to the manager or owner.

Bring about change takes more than acting like an asshole. It takes consistent and hard work over time.

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How hard is it to utter the... (Below threshold)

September 25, 2010 1:13 PM | Posted by dave: | Reply

How hard is it to utter the words "just visiting friends" ?

I wonder if any actual "terrorists" end up in that room for refusing to answer questions. Of course not, they're not that stupid. That room is mostly occupied by fools.

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In response to "Reader", wh... (Below threshold)

September 30, 2010 6:32 PM | Posted, in reply to Reader's comment, by bobdonda: | Reply

In response to "Reader", who described what would happen if everyone exercised their rights like this:

"We'd get crowds of unruly people. They would get more guys with guns and make more people wait. That's how it works. Eventually, social pressure from those being inconvenienced would stop the tide, and everything would return to normal."

You are absolutely correct, except you left out the most important part... HOW everything returns to normal.

The answer to that is that the customs officers would stop asking intrusive personal questions without cause to do so... they would stop detaining people for no good reason... and they would focus only on what they are legally supposed to be doing. And this is exactly what Paul Lucaks wants.

Also, in response to the recent post by dave: You consider him a fool for exercising his rights, at the cost of possibly being wrongly detained. He would consider you a fool, for being one of the millions of people who surrender their rights in order to save a minute or two.

Who is the fool? Depends on your point of view. Personally, I think things like freedom and legal rights are far more important than saving a couple minutes of my time. But in the US that seems to put me in the minority, sadly.

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"surrender their rights"</p... (Below threshold)

September 30, 2010 6:42 PM | Posted by dave: | Reply

"surrender their rights"

You're missing the point completely. I'm not surrendering my rights by answering a question I know is dumb with a completely bullshit answer.

The way you exorcise your rights is by fighting the people who matter, not the border agents, they have no power over which questions get asked, if any, they're told to ask questions.
You need to badger the people who make the laws that require the questions to be asked. What Paul did was futile.
Only if he was to use it as an example in a letter to someone actually important would it even matter.
If he had a letter writing campaign to Janet Napolitano, sending a letter or petitions every week; he'd be doing something meaningful. Challenging the border agent is an exercise in futility.
TLP outlined this above.

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What Dave said. Besides, ge... (Below threshold)

September 30, 2010 8:05 PM | Posted by brainchild: | Reply

What Dave said. Besides, getting angry at a border guard for asking a question now is kind of stupid (and useless) if you were busy rolling over for the Patriot Act (and all the ensuing attacks on personal freedom and privacy, including attempts to control the web). It's a bit like getting angry at someone for stepping on your lawn when your actual house burned down ten years ago.

Sure it may feel good and as if you're in control to shake your fist at those kids on your lawn but it's hardly taking on the arsonist who burned down the house you're pretending still exists. Nor is it rebuilding the house.

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So what's this guy's diagno... (Below threshold)

October 14, 2010 8:49 AM | Posted by Pops: | Reply

So what's this guy's diagnosis? What's with these "travel" people and upsetting the apple cart? I guess he hasn't read this post. What a jerk.

'Today the First Amendment Project is filing a lawsuit on my behalf against U.S. Customs and Border Protection (one of the divisions of the Department of Homeland Security) for violating the Privacy Act and the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) by refusing to disclose their records of my travels, what they did with my requests for my records, and how they index, search for, and retrieve these travel surveillance records."

http://hasbrouck.org/blog/archives/001887.html

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<a href="http://www.asics-u... (Below threshold)

November 2, 2010 2:14 AM | Posted by coach handbags: | Reply

asics running shoes

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This reminds me of this: <b... (Below threshold)

October 2, 2013 6:02 PM | Posted, in reply to 300baud's comment, by Atarii: | Reply

This reminds me of this:
http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=airport

Read it. Even if you disagree, you'll probably enjoy it. I know I did. I am, in fact, going to read it again, immediately after clicking "Post Your Comment".

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"The easiest way to break a... (Below threshold)

November 1, 2013 11:39 AM | Posted, in reply to Sydnew's comment, by Aaron: | Reply

"The easiest way to break a computer/robot is to give it an answer that it's never even considered."

The easiest way to break a computer or a robot is with a hammer, preferably a large one, and much effort; modern equipment tends to have fairly sturdy casings which don't collapse easily under blunt impact. Mere unexpected or ill-formed input doesn't stymie a properly implemented software system for longer than it takes to say "No, dummy -- now try again and see if you can get it right this time." Generally, this interval is most easily measured in integer milliseconds; almost always, telling the user he's wrong is the easiest thing for a computer to do.

In the systems with which you're probably most familiar, the 'no, dummy' response is expressed as form fields outlined in red, with helpful messages explaining what you were too careless to get right in the first place. In the system implemented on the platform of customs agents, during the ca. 7.5 daily hours they spend earning the requisite money to spend the rest of their time on Schlitz and masturbation, the response is expressed as a trip to the room with chairs. I can't say I blame them; I've had that sort of user myself from time to time. Ideally, I'd have had the power to wish them into the cornfield. But I'd have happily taken a room with chairs in lieu.

Are you a hockey fan? The game has a thing called a "penalty box", which the referee uses to punish misbehavior on the part of players by placing them in it for a given period of time, depending on the severity of their infraction. This is, of course, essentially identical to the room with chairs. You don't agree, of course, because hockey is just a game, while the room with chairs is just one example of how the fascist pigs who've stolen our country abuse their power for their own sadistic pleasure. Or something. Hey, it's not mine to tell you where to find meaning. Whatever gets you through the day, you know?

"Imagine if everyone did what he did. If that room was truly filled with people defending their rights."

Yes. It would rival the smokers' enclosure, and the baggage claim men's toilets, for the foulest stench to be found anywhere in the airport. A compelling desideratum, indeed.

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