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Professional Troublemaker

 Jonathan Corbett, Civil Rights Advocate

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Jonathan Corbett

Jon Corbett is a civil rights advocate known for filing the first lawsuit against the deployment of TSA nude body scanners, as well as defeating the body scanners live in "How to Get ANYTHING Through TSA Nude Body Scanners." Presently a law student, he continues to advocate for travel and privacy rights. Twitter: @_JonCorbett, Web: https://professional-troublemaker.com/

What Are My Rights at Large Festivals? (Am I Going to Jail for Weed & Prescriptions at Burning Man?)

Burning Man LoveKnowing that I’ve been in civil rights advocacy for 7 years and I’m now finishing law school, I get a ton of questions from friends about legal issues.  Being that Burning Man festival happens in 2 weeks, this month I’m inundated with, “Will the cops on the Playa care about x, y, z,” and reading a ton of material from other sources misstating the law (sadly, sometimes even the official correspondence from Burning Man gives inaccurate advice).   The answers to these questions mostly apply to many kinds of festivals, so rather than respond individually, allow me to share my collective thoughts regarding the common themes here:

  1. Can I get arrested for smoking weed on the Playa?  Yes.  Nevada made recreational marijuana legal effective July 1st, 2017, but federal law still prohibits possession or use of the same.  So, state cops are not going to be citing you if you’re in compliance with the law.  So what’s the problem?  Two things.  First, Burning Man is held on federal land.  There are federal law enforcement — Bureau of Land Management Rangers — all over, and although some might look the other way, it’s no guarantee.  Second, smoking marijuana in public in Nevada is still illegal.  Whether being in a tent qualifies as being in your home for the purpose of Nevada’s marijuana laws is not a question that has yet been answered, but you definitely do not want to be caught walking around with a lit joint.  You should be especially careful if there are children around, as there are at Burning Man during the day — it is unlikely a cop will “look the other way” if you’re getting high next to a kid.
  2. I heard that if one person is doing drugs, they can search the whole camp!  No.  An officer needs probable cause to conduct a search, a standard which means that a person of reasonable prudence would believe that you were committing a crime.  Case law is quite clear that standing next to a person committing a crime — let alone owning a tent 100 feet from them — is not, by itself, probable cause.  But, know that law enforcement is known to coerce consent to search.  How do you respond to, “I just caught your campmate smoking weed, now open your tent or I’m bringing the dogs!”  Easy: “I’m sorry but I don’t consent to a search.”  Let them bring the dogs if they must (they will probably get bored before that time, and your defense attorney would much rather challenge a dog search than your consent), but do not ever consent to a search, whether you are doing something illegal or not.  Likewise, if you’re cited or arrested out on the Playa, you have no obligation to tell them where you’re camping, and I suspect your campmates may prefer if you don’t.  Do not lie to the police on the Playa — if they are federal law enforcement, lying to them is a felony! — but why invite them back to your house?  Instead, “I’m going to exercise my right to remain silent” is a good response (and then do the remaining silent part!).
  3. What about prescription pills?  They’re fine.  And despite what this morning’s e-mail from the Burning Man said (“If you use prescription drugs, they must be in the prescription bottle or container you receive from the pharmacist at all times”), I was able to find no part of Nevada’s Controlled Substances Act that requires you to do this, and at least one state that has tried to legislate a “must be in Rx bottle” requirement has found their law declared unconstitutional.  But, here’s the thing: having a baggie full of pills may be evidence that you intended to distribute them.  It’s not enough on its own, but I would not recommend getting 10 little baggies, putting 4 oxycodone pills in each of them, and carrying all 10 baggies with you while walking around the Playa.  You’ll look like a drug dealer, and at the least give them reasonable suspicion to question you.  But, if they are legitimately prescribed to you, in the end, you’ve committed no crime, and carrying one of your Xanax in your pocket in case you need it is, as best I can tell, fully legal in Nevada.
  4. Anything else I should worry about?  Yep.  Here’s where people most frequently get in trouble:
    • You won’t get in with: stowaways, fireworks, lasers, styrofoam coolers, pets, plants, and guns (lol at this morning’s e-mail stating there are no “weapons” allowed… anything from knives to flamethrowers is not a problem; the only prohibition is firearms).  The Burning Man staff (not the police) will ask to do a quick look in your car for any of the above on the way in, and you’ll be turned away from the gate if you refuse.
    • Don’t drive like an asshole (don’t drive on open Playa without a mutant vehicle permit, don’t exceed the speed limit, don’t drive while drunk, don’t drive during a dust storm).  It’s weird driving for miles at 10 MPH on gate road, but do it.  Going faster will also screw up your car and create massive dust clouds for everyone else.
    • Use intoxicants responsibly.  Drugs are bad, I hear, but doing them out in the open is just plain stupid, and the police have binoculars and night vision goggles.  They’re also known to go undercover and ask for drugs, so don’t think it’s cool to “gift” them to the cute girl you just met — she may (seriously) be a cop.  Know your limits and don’t get so obliterated that you need medical attention.
    • Mind the children.  Keep anything adult-themed away from the daytime view  of passers-by.  Drinking age is 21 (yes, there are undercovers for that too).  Age of consent is 16.  Most law enforcement on the Playa most (but not all) of the time is fairly relaxed, but if you screw up anything in this section, you’re gonna have a bad time.
    • Ask for consent.  Boobs do not mean “yes.”  And same goes for women… don’t think you get a pass because you’re a girl.  People verbally asking “Can I touch your ___?” or “Can I kiss you?” is common and appreciated by most.  Take the opportunity to go the extra mile to ensure that you’re respectful of people, and also take the opportunity to respectfully educate those who don’t get it.

Have fun out there, guys!

Did Google Break the Law By Firing Employee Who Questioned Diversity Groupthink?

women_in_techLast week, a Google employee wrote a document entitled, “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” and posted it to an internal discussion group promoted as a place for Google employees to advocate for internal changes.  (Full text including sources and hyperlinks present in original.)  I encourage you to read the full 3,000 word document, but I think a fair summary of the author’s position is as follows:

  1. There have been studies that show that, statistically, there are some psychological traits that are more likely to occur in men than in women, and others more likely to occur in women than men.
  2. These psychological differences may be at least partially the reason for the disparity between the number of men and women in the tech field, which has been dominated by men for decades.
  3. Google’s corporate culture pretends to solicit diverse viewpoints from its employees, but a viewpoint that reflects the points above would be frowned upon.
  4. Some of Google’s diversity programs are not the best approach, specifically including: a) training for women and minorities to the exclusion of white men, and b) a requirement that team composition include a quota of women and minorities regardless of whether the composition of the available qualified resources matches that quota are not.

The document was promptly leaked to the media by employees who were offended by its contents, and the author was subsequently fired for “perpetuating genders stereotypes” — perhaps proving point #3.

As a man who has spent much of his life working in tech, I have had occasion to notice that there aren’t as many women, e.g., in the Comp Sci classroom, on the IT helpdesk, or a part of the remote software development team, as there are men.  Frankly, I’m not sufficiently educated on the subject to have an opinion worth sharing as to why that is.  Sexism is certainly a real thing that still happens, although I suspect that the full explanation is a nuanced issue with more to it than any brief explanation can offer.  But, I am also troubled that the media reporting on the document in question immediately labeled it an “anti-diversity manifesto,” despite the author literally saying “I strongly believe in gender and racial diversity” as one of his key points, and I am troubled that Google would create a forum for people to express constructive criticism and then fire an employee for doing so in a way that doesn’t match Google’s (and Silicon Valley in general’s) political ideology.

Anyway, you came to this post because I do happen to be educated on the law.  Having made national attention, this guy now has lawyers knocking down his door to take the case because doing so is good publicity for them, win or lose.  Assuming he retains one of them, will he win in largely at-will California?

Some arguments he can make:

  1. California prohibits companies from “[c]ontrolling or directing, or tending to control or direct the political activities or affiliations of employees.”  Cal. Lab. Code § 1101(b).  I think there’s no doubt that the subject matter of the memo was a “political issue.”  Google has a reasonable argument that they didn’t fire him for his position on this political issue, but for expressing it at the workplace when it violates their code of conduct.  But, the counterargument for that is that Google created this forum for its employees to speak freely, and then punished him for what he said.  If he can show that others have posted political opinions from a different viewpoint that have gone unpunished, it can very much be argued that Google at least tended to control political activities or affiliations.
  2. California prohibits companies from retaliating against an employee who publishes information that he or she “has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal statute,” so long as he does so to the government or to a supervisor.  Cal. Lab. Code § 1102.5(b).  Among many other things, the memo alleges that Google’s diversity programs “incentivize illegal discrimination,” which would violate both state and federal law if true.  Let’s assume he has reasonable cause to believe that.  Google will argue that: 1) his 3,000 word memo said many things, and he was not fired for the small comment about incentivizing discrimination, but rather for his hypothesis that biological gender differences, and not sexism, are responsible for the gender gap in tech.  They may also argue that publishing to this forum doesn’t count as disclosing to a supervisor.  I think Google would fail on the first argument, but prevail on the second.  He can reasonably argue that the other 2,997 words were background to his claim of discrimination, but cannot reasonably argue that submitting his feedback to the entire company, rather than to his boss, was the right way to provide that feedback.  But, I will note that the law provides that “the employer shall have the burden of proof.”  Perhaps not a risk worth taking.
  3. Federal law allows employees to complain to each other about workplace conditions without fear of retribution, as long as it is a “concerted activity” for “mutual aid or protection.”  29 U.S.C. § 157.  What do these vague terms mean?  Well, the agency in charge of enforcing this statute, the National Labor Relations Board, takes a broad view: “Examples include: talking with one or more co-workers about your wages and benefits or other working conditions…”  This clearly applies to the situation, and it matters not whether the state is at-will or the employees are in a union.  There’s just one catch: “However, you can lose protection by saying or doing something egregiously offensive…”  Google will obviously argue that the employee’s memo was egregiously offensive, but given the civil tone of the memo, even if some (even many) people found the memo to be offensive, I don’t think a court will find it to be “egregiously” so.

In short, there is no open-and-shut case here.  But there is a case, and given that this former employee will have strong legal representation, I expect Google will rapidly settle the matter with a 6- or 7-figure payout to avoid having to publicly defend its diversity programs and its politically homogeneous work environment.

Trump: OK For Police to Rough Up Suspects

Disclaimer: I’m not a Democrat. I’m not a Republican. I’m a civil rights advocate.  I will call out each and every person in power who violates, or promotes the violation of, our rights, regardless of whether there is an (R) or a (D) following his or her name.


On this blog, the subject of police abuse comes up regularly.  I’ve personally sued the police for stop-and-frisk, for helping the TSA detain me, for attempting to implement “street body scanners,” and for refusing to issue gun licenses to ordinary citizens.  I’ve called out Texas cops for abusive searches, Miami cops for arresting photographers, London police for thinking they’re a spy agency, New York cops for saying that it’s okay to “get a few punches” in during an arrest, and so forth.

Needless to say, I think that there is a massive issue with policing in this country.  I think that’s something that most of us can more-or-less agree on: it would be nice if we could get rid of bad cops, because they threaten our freedom and embarrass our country.

So when the President of the United States gets up in front of a crowd, on camera, and says that cops should feel free to rough up illegal immigrants as they are arrested, I take exception:

“Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over? Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody. Don’t hit their head? I said, ‘You can take the hand away, OK?'”

~~Donald J. Trump

Now, obviously, few of us feel bad if a murder is injured in his capture, but the problem is that most immigration arrestees are not murderers, and even the ones who are suspected of the same have not been convicted.  We have a court system to ensure that those who commit crimes are punished and those who have not are set free.  It is not up to the police to begin that punishment at the time of arrest.

I’m apparently not the only one who takes exception.

Los Angeles:

Long Island:

Gainsville:

Mr. Trump’s remarks last week were disturbing.  He should take them back.  But we all know he won’t.

Is It *Really* Impossible To Get A Gun License in NYC? (Part IV — An Appeal Amid Massive Corruption Scandal)

This is the fourth installment of a series documenting an ordinary New Yorker attempting to exercise his Second Amendment rights: Part I (license application), Part II (application rejected), Part III (the lawsuit).

After one hundred years of New Yorkers receiving gun licenses if and only if they gain the favor of the NYPD – often through cash payments – it is well past time for the courts of this state to step in and declare the NYPD’s implementation of the “proper cause” requirement to be unconstitutional…

gun-license-app-div-coverWe left off last fall with in Part III, where I filed suit against the NYPD for: 1) requiring that I provide them a “good reason” as to why I should be allowed to bear arms, 2) requiring that I answer entirely irrelevant questions (Have I ever been fired?  Have I ever been prescribed a prescription painkiller?), and 3) refusing to fulfill a public records request that would shed light on their supposed process for deciding on license applications.

After receiving service of the complaint, the NYPD filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that: 1) it’s totally constitutional to require a reason before allowing a citizen to exercise his or her rights, 2) that these questions are totally rational to ask of one seeking a gun license, and 3) that releasing records would “interfere with a law enforcement investigation.”  Judge Carol R. Edmead of the New York County Supreme Court granted this motion on February 7th, 2017, essentially rubber-stamping the NYPD’s arguments.  Judge Edmead required the NYPD to make no showing, for example, as to why they needed to know answers to any of their obviously irrelevant questions, and required the NYPD to present no evidence — not even a sworn declaration — that releasing records would cause legitimate interference with law enforcement.

The most glaring of Judge Edmead’s errors were in 2 parts:

  1. She conceded that gun restrictions must be subject to “intermediate scrutiny” — that is, they must address an “important” governmental objective by means “substantially” related to that.  She then went on to say that she was approving the NYPD’s actions because they were “rational.”  But a finding of “rationality” is not the test that she just stated was appropriate.  The NYPD’s tomfoolery must not be merely “rational” but be a substantially tight fit — asking not significantly more than is actually required to fulfill the “important” governmental objective of public safety.
  2. I’m actually somewhat shocked that she granted a motion to dismiss on the public records request given that, in deciding a motion to dismiss (the first opportunity a defendant has to get a case tossed out of court), a judge cannot yet weigh evidence because the plaintiff has not yet had a chance to present evidence.  Yet she had no problem finding that releasing the records would definitely interfere with a law enforcement investigation, just because an attorney for the NYPD said so.  In doing this, she cut off the case before allowing me a chance to argue the other side.

I immediately filed a notice of appeal, and today I “perfect” the appeal, as they say here in New York, by filing the “record” (a copy of everything that happened in the court below) and my appellate brief — given the requirement of 10 copies of everything (8 for the court and 2 for the opposing party), well over 2,000 pages had to be printed, bound, and delivered to make this happen (links to digital copies below).  In it, I detail for the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division the history of corruption in the NYPD’s licensing division.  Some highlights from the last few decades, although the corruption goes back 100 years:

  • In 1973, NYPD Capt. Salvatore Salmieri was suspended for issuing a gun license to a mafia chauffer. Exhibit C – Narvaez, Alfonzo.  “Captain Suspended in Gun Authorization.”  New York Times (Nov. 17th, 1973).
  • In 1997, the head of the licensing division, Henry Krantz, was disciplined for, again, picking out individuals for whom the usual process did not apply: “Krantz was charged with providing ‘preferential treatment to individuals or entities,’ as well as ‘wrongfully directing’ other cops to grant the favors and failing to supervise his staff.” Exhibit D – Marzuli, John.  “Gun Licensing Boss Suspended by NYPD.”  Y. Daily News (Jan. 23rd, 1997).
  • In 2002, a former head of the licensing division, D.I. Benjamin Petrofsky, was accused of (and later demoted for) helping famous rock-and-roll musicians receive a pistol permit in exchange for VIP concert tickets and after-party admission.  Exhibit E – Messing, Philip.  “NYPD Under Fire in Aerosmith ‘Got a Gun’ Scandal.”  New York Post (Nov. 24th, 2002).  He allegedly went as far as to fingerprint the musicians inside Madison Square Garden.  Wiederhorn, Jon.  “Janie’s Got A Gun Permit? Aerosmith Flap Lands Cop in Hot Water.”  MTV (2002).

But of course, you’ve all probably heard of the more recent scandal that former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was investigating before Trump fired him:

According to court papers, the trading of gun licenses for bribes stretched from at least 2010 to 2016.  Exhibit H – Neumeister, Larry.  “Former NYC police, lawyer arrested in gun licensing probe.”  Associated Press (Apr. 25th, 2017).  In return for approval of gun licenses without meeting New York’s qualifications, D.I. Endall’s officers “solicited and accepted food, alcohol, parties, dancers and prostitutes.”  Id. Several of the gun licenses bought through the corrupt members of D.I. Endall’s office caught in this sting went to street vigilantes who were known for beating a man on the street so badly he is permanently blind in one eye.  In the meantime, the application by Corbett, who the NYPD concedes had no character issues, was denied.

Deputy Inspector Endall was, of course, the NYPD licensing division commander who denied my application not 3 weeks before being transferred to desk duty — err, lower desk duty — because several of his subordinates were arrested for literally taking hookers and cash for gun licenses.

I do hope the Appellate Division takes to heart that they are literally taking a blind eye to corruption if they do not take action.  From here, I expect it to take several months to get an opinion from them.  If it’s unfavorable, I can then ask the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, to hear the case, before moving onto the federal courts.

So “Is It *Really* Impossible To Get A Gun License in NYC?”  Not sure yet, but so far:

  • Money Spent: $1,365
  • Time Spent: ~80 hours

Will look forward to updating with Part V as the Appellate Division takes a stand.

Corbett v. City of New York IV – Appellate Brief (.pdf – 7MB)

Corbett v. City of New York IV – Record on Appeal (.pdf – 38MB)

UPDATE: Mere hours before I was to file this brief, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit invalidated D.C.’s “good reason” requirement for carrying firearms.  This is a major win, and so I updated my brief and re-printed it.  The above documents now reflect that change.


“Jon Corbett is a civil rights advocate known for filing the first lawsuit against the deployment of TSA nude body scanners, as well as defeating the body scanners live in ‘How to Get ANYTHING Through TSA Nude Body Scanners.’  Presently a law student, he continues to advocate for travel and privacy rights.  Twitter: @_JonCorbett, Web:https://professional-troublemaker.com/

Fighting for civil rights in court is expensive!  Want to contribute to the fight against government assholery? Donate via PayPal, Venmo, Chace QuickPay, Bitcoin, or check.

Insomniac Sued for Letting Overdose Victim Die: “Someone Has Died Every Year” at Insomniac Events Since 2006

Last year, I sued Insomniac, the producer of Electronic Daisy Carnival — a massive, 100,000+ attendee music festival held in the desert outside of Las Vegas, NV — over their policy of not allowing OTC medication into their event and requiring those with prescription medication to “consult” with a “safety officer” before they would be allowed in.  That case was settled before appeal after being dismissed on a technicality.

A large part of Insomniac’s argument in that case before settlement was that there was no need for attendees to bring in their own OTC medicines because they provide world-class medical services including all the medicine anyone could possibly need.  But, the reality is this: there are only 3 medical tents, and the Las Vegas Motor Speedway where the event is held is massive:

lvms

According to Google, the longest interior dimension is over 3,000 feet, or about 6/10ths of a mile (1 km).  To walk around the circumference of the venue would be about 1.5 miles (2 km).  With 3 medical tents, you’re looking at 1 tent every 1,000 or so feet.

At the 2016 festival, a young man named Nicholas Austin Tom succumbed to the heat in combination with MDMA intoxication.  MDMA (ecstasy, molly) is a common, relatively safe party drug with two main caveats: dehydration and hyperthermia (fever).  When you’re in a 110°F (43°C) desert, dancing and sweating, and do not consume water, you are already tempting fate with dehydration and hyperthermia, but add large doses of MDMA to that and the results can be deadly.

Of course, dehydration and hyperthermia are easy to treat in a medical setting: IV fluids and ice packs can save a life.  So, according to Mr. Tom’s attorneys, when he started seizing that evening, festival goers attempted to carry him to a medical tent — but it took them half an hour to find one.  Futher, when they arrived, there was no medical staff there, and by the time they returned, he was dead.

Did Insomniac just not know that they needed more medical staff?  From the complaint:

Beginning in 2006, someone has died every year at a rave put on by Defendants INSOMNIAC and [current parent company] LIVE NATION.

In case that seems like an exaggeration, they provided a list:

  • Joshua Johnson, 18 (Nocturnal Wonderland, 2006)
  • Michelle Lee, 21 (Monster Massive, 2007)
  • William On, 23 (Together as One, 2008)
  • Jesse Morales, 22 (EDC Dallas, 2010)
  • Sasha Rodriguez, 15 (EDC L.A., 2010)
  • Andrew Graf, 19 (EDC Dallas, 2011)
  • Kyle Haigis, 22 (EDC Dallas, 2011)
  • Emily McCaughan, 22 (EDC Vegas, 2012)
  • Arrel Cochon, 22 (Nocturnal Wonderland, 2013)
  • Anthony Anaya, 25 (EDC Vegas, 2014)
  • Brian Brockette, 20 (Electric Forest, 2014)
  • John Hoang Dinh Vo, 22 (Beyond Wonderland, 2015)

In fairness, it seems that they didn’t find a death for 2009, so perhaps for that year, they get a pass.

The bottom line: trying to take away people’s drugs at the gate doesn’t work.  Drugs will always be smuggled into music events.  What does work is providing adequate water and medical services.  Based on the list above, it would seem that Insomniac must know that they have a problem.  I just can’t fathom how Insomniac CEO Pasquale Rotella does not feel disgusted with himself for letting this happen.  (Feel free to let him know how you feel on Twitter.)

Tom v. Insomniac – Complaint (Los Angeles Superior Court, BC 665696) (.pdf)

* Provided with an F.U. to the Los Angeles Superior Court for charging me ~$15 just to retrieve that document, and to the media for reporting on the story but being too cheap or lazy to actually post the source document.  Public records should be free.

An Open Letter to Burning Man (and Law Enforcement): Locking Down a City to Find a Missing Teenager is Illegal

 

Trojan Horse, Burning Man 2011
Oh, a gift! Open the gates, let it in! [Art @ Burning Man, 2011]
Burning Man is a festival of art, music, culture, and spirituality, held annually in the vast deserts of Nevada.  Over 60,000 attendees gather and literally build a temporary city — roads, emergency services, a mail system, and structures of every shape and size — for one week.  Some of the most brilliant art projects in the world are showcased, many of which are ritualistically burned to the ground by the end of the event.

I find the experience I’ve encountered there to be like none other and treasure the learning and good times I’ve had.  But, the organizers of the festival consistently do one thing that, were they anyone whom I did not hold in such high esteem, would have been sued a long time ago: any time a “child” goes “missing,” they block the exits of the festival until found.  And almost invariably by “child” I mean “teenager,” while by “missing” I mean “has voluntarily gone off partying and some parent is worried.”

Open Letter to Burning Man
An Open Letter to Burning Man (.pdf)

This is literally the definition of false imprisonment.

Traditionally, at common law, false imprisonment is defined as the 1) confinement of another, 2) within fixed boundaries for any period of time, 3) who is aware of, or injured by, his or her confinement, 4) without consent or privilege (Nevada law takes a substantially similar view).  The “within fixed boundaries” part deserves clarity: the boundaries could be a cage, a house, a 100-acre estate, or even an entire city.  The “privilege” part also deserves clarity: there has never been a “privilege” to detain a single person without reasonable suspicion, let alone to detain 60,000 persons, 99.9% of which assuredly have no idea where the missing person is.

Cut that shit out.  It fails to uphold the community’s value placed on consent and self-reliance, and it’s just plain illegal.

U.S. Supreme Court Lifts Part of Travel Ban Injunction, Agrees to Hear Case

Travel Ban ProtestFirst: No, this was not a vindication of the “TRAVEL BAN.”

The U.S. Supreme Court today issued an opinion on the preliminary injunction entered by the 4th and 9th Circuits, as well as the government’s request that they hear the case (a “petition for certiorari” — that word is pronounced “sir-she-uh-ruh-ree,” for those wondering).  The tl;dr:

We grant the petitions for certiorari and grant the stay applications in part.

So, the Court will hear the case in the fall, but what part of the injunction did they put on hold?

The injunctions remain in place only with respect to parties similarly situated to [the plaintiffs].  In practical terms, this means that §2(c) [and §6(b)] may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.

What it boils down to is this: the plaintiffs in this case were all alleging that they were denied access to attend to their family or business in the United States.  When you file a lawsuit, as a general rule, you can only ask the court to help you, not to right a wrong against the public.   Even if your case is a class-action, you can only seek to reach people “similarly situated” to you.

The lower courts enjoined the government from applying these two odious sections of the TRAVEL BAN to anyone.  But, since some people seeking entry have no connections to the U.S., those people are not similarly situated to these plaintiffs, and thus the Supreme Court narrowed the injunction to only those with some connection to U.S. persons or entities.

So, in summary:

  1. If you are accepted to university, are visiting a family member, or have been hired by a company in the U.S., the TRAVEL BAN is still on hold as to you.
  2. If you have no connection to the U.S. at all, you may have to wait a few months if you’re coming from one of the 6 Muslim countries Trump has banned — or get some family or business connections here first (the ruling isn’t quite clear if having “friends” to visit in the U.S. would count as a sufficient connection).
  3. In upholding the injunction as applied to those with a connection to the U.S., the Supreme Court is implying that the plaintiffs in this case are likely to win, because showing “likelihood of success on the merits” is required for any kind of injunction.  Good deal.

Terrorist Attacks Police Officer in Michigan Airport — What Could Have Prevented This?

Yesterday, it was reported that a Canadian national entered a Detroit-area airport, found a police officer, yelled “Allahu Ackbar!” and then repeatedly stabbed the police officer in the neck.

In the meantime, our government has focused on:

  1. A “TRAVEL BAN” (emphasis Trump’s).  But a ban on temporary visas for citizens of a half dozen Middle Eastern countries would not have excluded this Canadian Muslim terrorist (or any other terrorist, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security).
  2. A “laptop ban,” because older x-ray equipment can make it difficult to distinguish a laptop battery from a block of C-4.  The better solution being an upgrade of older x-ray equipment notwithstanding, every recent airport attack has either detonated a bomb before the security checkpoint or used an alternative weapon — like a knife.
  3. A more thorough molestation when going through TSA checkpoints.   Because despite all the other holes in TSA security, grabbing everyone’s genitals makes us feel safer, right?
  4. Surveillance — which, apparently, doesn’t work.

Here’s what our government has not focused on:

  1. Getting the hell out of the Middle East.  Instead, we’re still selling arms to Saudi Arabia and now bombing more civilians than ever.
  2. Fixing mental health in this country.  Scratch that, fixing health in this country.

There seems to be a simple solution: spend less on war, ineffective TSA security, and creating a police state, and spend more on healthcare.

So why aren’t we doing this?  Why don’t we, the people, the voters, insist on this?

Please, Don’t Go In The TSA’s Private Room!

One of the more interesting (sometimes, disturbing) parts of “my job” is that I get e-mails from people across the country on a regular basis describing abusive TSA practices.  These accounts range from descriptions of the TSA’s usual pat-downs, of which the author was shocked to realize happen that way, to descriptions of clear violations of TSA procedure, thuggish attitudes, and down-right sexual assault.  There is one common theme beyond blue gloves: a high percentage of the time passengers feel abused, it is when they go to “the private room.”

For those of you who have had a TSA full-body pat-down, you probably know the speech they give you: a description of how they’re going to touch you, a note that they’ll be using the back of their hands on your “sensitive” areas, a question as to whether you have any injuries or medical devices, and finally, an offer to conduct the screening in private.

For the love of god, please do not take them up on this offer.

Three reasons:

  1. In the private room, there are no cameras, there is no supervision, and if you say the TSA screener inappropriately touched you, it is unlikely you will convince a TSA supervisor, a police officer, or a judge to believe you.  Every checkpoint in the country has many cameras, and you can actually request footage from them by Freedom of Information Act request.  If something goes wrong (well, more wrong than usual), this is your only hope for justice.
  2. Sometimes, the TSA will insist that they conduct private room screening. In particular, this will happen if you alert the explosive trace detector.  In this case, the private room screening will be even more invasive than usual.  They will literally be grabbing your genitals with the front of their hands.  Even if it results in missing your flight, do not go.  Even if the TSA insists that you must, refuse.  At some point, you have to draw the line — I urge you to draw it at this point or before.  Let them throw a fit, call the cops, or whatever it is they threaten you with, but at the end of the day, they have to let you go.
  3. Private screening allows the TSA to hide their pat-downs from everyone else, making it seem more rare and keeping the public less on notice of what may happen to them.  By forcing the pat-down to be in front of everyone else, you are taking a small stand.

If you think I may be exaggerating, here’s an example of the kind of e-mail I get (warning: graphic):

TSA Sexual Assault

This kind of sexual assault happens all the time, leading to a headline in 2011 where three different senior citizens in three different incidents accused the TSA of strip-searching them in the private room. But most of the time, stories like these get no media attention. The victim may file a complaint, and nothing happens.

Catching your flight is just not worth it.  Please help me get fewer e-mails like this and spread the word.

P.S. – One more suggestion, if I may: tuck your shirt into your pants before a pat-down.  If you do so, you won’t be asked to lift up your shirt, and you won’t feel their latex-coated hands on your bare skin.

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