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Defective X-Ray Pornscanners: You Can See Sideboobs But Not Sidearms

By: spocko Wednesday August 20, 2014 5:48 pm

Wired has a story today about a team of security researchers demonstrated how people can slip weapons and explosives past TSA’s Rapiscan full-body X-ray scanners.

The article talks about blogger Jonathan Corbett who published a YouTube video two years ago showing some of these same failings which the TSA pooh-poohed. Now these researchers from the University of California at San Diego, the University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins are showing the same things and more.

Corbett has a court case against the TSA which is continuing and you can donate to it here at TSA Out of My Pants. I hope he wins, in a way he was already successful because those scanners are no longer used by the TSA. But as one the the taxpayers who was conned out of one BILLION dollars for a defective product, I want my money back!

How do we get that money back? Qui tam lawsuits.  From the Legal Information Institute.

In a qui tam action, a private party called a relator brings an action on the government’s behalf. The government, not the relator, is considered the real plaintiff. If the government succeeds, the relator receives a share of the award. Also called a popular action.

For example, the federal False Claims Act authorizes qui tam actions against parties who have defrauded the federal government. 31 U.S.C. § 3279 et seq. If successful, a relator in a False Claims Act qui tam action may receive up to 30% of the government’s award.

Now I think this is a perfect opportunity for this kind of case.  I hope that Jonathan Corbett files one. It’s time a whistleblower flip the narrative and make bank on their important work. From legal discovery we could learn a lot, like  ”What did Chertoff know and when did he know it?”  Two years ago the incompetence of the company could be hidden by national security concerns, but now the product isn’t used anymore in airports. This company, and Chertoff, defrauded the federal government. We paid for a defective product. Shouldn’t we get our money back?

Rapidscan Systems will still try to evoke national security and not divulge “methods and practices” on the Rapidscan 1000, but we will say the issue is moot since it is not used by the TSA anymore. I’m sure there are 17 good reasons it’s not feasible to bring this case, but for 30% of a billion dollars those reasons might be overcome, don’t you think?

Who’s Using the Defective Rapidscanners Now? 

One of the points they make in the Wired article is that these scanners are still being sold to courthouses, jails, and other government security checkpoints around the country. I want to take steps to de-militarize our police, but I’m  sympathetic to their concerns that it’s scary out there with the NRA pushing guns everywhere all the time.

Maybe  these cities can also sue to get their money back for buying defective products.

Can We Trade In Our Tanks?


Robin Williams Found Dead In Tiburon California on Monday August 11, 2014

By: spocko Monday August 11, 2014 3:51 pm

I’m sure that in the days and weeks to come we will learn more about the circumstances of his death. The Marin Sheriff’s Department is investigating.

See the PDF from the Marin Sheriff’s office.

But first I’d like people to recount a time or place that he made you laugh, think or cry.

I did stand up comedy in San Francisco at the Holy City Zoo where Robin Williams performed. My comedy coach, John Cantu, talked about when he would come to the clubs and take over the stage for an evening. I kept wishing that I was there on one of the nights he did that. Unfortunately he had moved on by the time I started. I had seen him perform at Comedy Day and loved to hear him live. I ran into him one time down at the Marina. He had the hairiest arms of anyone I had ever seen.

We’ve heard tales about his drug problems but not so much about depression. His death might be related, we don’t know yet. But I know a lot of stand-up comedians have suffered from severe depression. And it reminds me of this story:

A man goes to a doctor, claiming he’s depressed. He feels as if the world doesn’t care about his problems, as if he’s the pole the universe pisses on. The doctor ponders the man’s problems, unsure of what to do, until suddenly he remembers: “The circus is in town, and Pagliaccio the clown is there! Why don’t you go see his show, I’m sure that’ll cheer you up.” The man breaks down crying and sobs “But I am Pagliaccio the clown!!”

 Rest in peace Robin, and thanks for all the laughs.

Shouldn’t We Laugh When Right Wing Groups Rip Off Tea Partiers?

By: spocko Wednesday August 6, 2014 6:11 pm

The first answer to my headline questions would be, YES! We should laugh and rub our hands together in glee. “HA ha! Suckers!” But there is something more to do when we read about conservatives financially conning conservatives.
Faces of the Tea Party Movement 12
The wing nut group I’m talking about is the subject of a ProPublica piece by Kim BarkerPro-Troop’ Charity Pays Off Tea Party Cronies Instead:  In summary she writes: “Move America Forward has collected millions to send care packages to U.S. troops. But its assets have been used to benefit conservative political consulting firms close to its Tea Party founder.” Barker does a tremendous amount of document-based research and makes this comment.

Yet an examination of its fundraising appeals, tax records and other documents shows that Move America Forward has repeatedly misled donors and inflated its charitable accomplishments, while funneling millions of dollars in revenue to the men behind the group and their political consulting firms.

Over at Salon Digby puts the story of Move America Forward and The Tea Party Express into more context. Wingnut scams the troops: How Tea Party quack uses fake charities to get rich

Meet Sal Russo, the man accused of running a faux veterans charity and Tea Party PAC — to shadily pocket millions

Digby points out that this is nothing new, that conservatives have been using so-called nonprofits to push conservative politics and avoid paying taxes for decades. Even with the rise of SuperPACs and passing Citizens United, some groups still like to tug on the ol’ heart strings to make money from “the base.”

I’m really glad ProPublica commissioned this piece and paid money to Barker to write it.  I’m glad Digby put it in context. But there is a third component that still needs to be addressed. “What is to be done?”

PositiveBrother,  a commenter at Salon said this.

Next I want to read about him being put in JAIL, very, very tired of just reading about, debating about, commenting about these people scamming money from people, while most hard working Americans go to work to try and feed their families.

And then Ranina asked:

Yes! While it’s great that they are exposed, now what? What can we do about it?

I realized years ago that journalism isn’t enough when it comes to these groups and their schemes. Often times these groups are savvy legally, financially, politically and in the media. In the Barker article you see, “Russo didn’t respond to questions from ProPublica” Of course not, because he doesn’t have to. He’s not under oath. Not only doesn’t he have to answer honestly, he doesn’t have to answer at all.

To answer PositiveBrother’s question you just find which laws were broken, find someone who cares and is willing to prosecute. That’s all doable, and if that is your expertise I say go for it! Please report back, I’d like to know what works.

Fighting Logically in an Emotional World

I’ve been working on a guide to using the Spocko Method to fight the forces I think are especially destructive to our society. One of the key ideas is to find the interested 3rd parties who care about the outcome and engage them.  When I was focusing on right wing radio, I went to the advertisers and asked them. “Do you want your brand tainted by being associated with this violent rhetoric, sexist screeds and bigoted comments?”

In this case who has been harmed? The people getting mislead.  How could you engage them? I’d sincerely ask, “Is what they did using your money okay with you?”

We need to understand that my opinion as a left-wing liberal doesn’t matter to MAF and TPE donors. They already know we are god-less troop-hating hippies. The opinion of any media but RW media doesn’t count. In fact, the very act of this story appearing in the liberal media is proof that we are “out to get ‘em.”

Bookmark my words, they will circle the wagons because of the “hit piece” by the liberal media and then they will use it to raise money. All accusations will be denied, and they look forward to their, “day in court” where they will be proved right.  The right wing LOVES to be the victim.  They even need to invent attacks that don’t exist, ‘Obama is coming for your guns!”

It was interesting to note that in the ProPublica piece Melanie Morgan, the co-founder of Move America Forward and major participant in The Tea Party Express, was relegated to the last paragraph. I expect she will go into full denial, excuses and victim mode when she writes about this. Morgan was the public face of MAF and used her position on KSFO radio to constantly promote MAF and Tea Party Express fundraising events. Besides these kind of “charity” promotions, right wing radio gives hours of one sided ‘free advertising” for candidates during campaigns. Yet another FEC violation on our public airwaves that nobody is looking at.

How do you have an impact on people like Russo who use attacks as fund raising opportunities?  You go to the people who supported them and ask how they feel, what they think about the official response and — if they are unhappy — suggest to them something they can do to express their displeasure.

Expressing Displeasure via a Contribution Refund AKA. “I want my money back!”

In 2010 while reading a 494 page FEC documents about the Tea Party Express and writing about how they were sucking up police and community resources in Provo, UT  I spotted a section under itemized dispersion called “Contribution Refund. 

Ebola outbreak is “moving faster than our efforts to control it.” WHO Director-General

By: spocko Friday August 1, 2014 3:43 pm

Today,  Dr Margaret Chan, director-general for WHO delivered an overview to the Presidents of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in Conakry, Guinea.

Here is a link to the complete transcript.   

First, this outbreak is moving faster than our efforts to control it. If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of lost lives but also severe socioeconomic disruption and a high risk of spread to other countries. As I said before, this meeting must mark a turning point in the outbreak response.

In addition, the outbreak is affecting a large number of doctors, nurses, and other health care workers, one of the most essential resources for containing an outbreak. To date, more than 60 health care workers have lost their lives in helping others. Some international staff are infected. These tragic infections and deaths significantly erode response capacity.

Second, the situation in West Africa is of international concern and must receive urgent priority for decisive action at national and international levels. Experiences in Africa over nearly four decades tell us clearly that, when well managed, an Ebola outbreak can be stopped.

This is not an airborne virus. Transmission requires close contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, also after death. Apart from this specific situation, the general public is not at high risk of infection by the Ebola virus. 

At the same time, it would be extremely unwise for national authorities and the international community to allow an Ebola virus to circulate widely and over a long period of time in human populations. 

Constant mutation and adaptation are the survival mechanisms of viruses and other microbes. We must not give this virus opportunities to deliver more surprises.

Third, this is not just a medical or public health problem. It is a social problem. Deep-seated beliefs and cultural practices are a significant cause of further spread and a significant barrier to rapid and effective containment. This social dimension must also be addressed as an integral part of the overall response.

Fourth, in some areas, chains of transmission have moved underground. They are invisible. They are not being reported. Because of the high fatality rate, many people in affected areas associate isolation wards with a sure death sentence, and prefer to care for loved ones in homes or seek assistance from traditional healers.

Emphasis mine.

Ebola in GuineaOn Thursday I wrote about the need to understand the spread of disease in context beyond a medical frame. There are political, economic, media and sociological systems to understand. Hubris, compassion, ego, greed, fear and lack of knowledge all play a huge part of the process.

I used examples of food-borne pathogens like salmonella and e.coli to show that given the right incentives, and lack of controls, sickness and death become acceptable and efforts to limit them are blocked. It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.

Late Thursday from USA Today I read this:

A medical transport plane departed the United States on Thursday afternoon, headed to Liberia to pick up an American Ebola patient.

Two American medical missionaries working with Ebola patients in Liberia have been diagnosed with the virus. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, who worked at a medical center operated by the North Carolina-based Samaritan’s Purse, were listed in stable but grave condition, according to a statement from the organization.

I’m curious about the reasons this happened. Were medical decisions overruled by power players? Were powerful political players overruled by medical doctors confident in their abilities to contain and control?

I find Dr. Chan’s third point especially important. What are the “deep-seated beliefs and cultural practices” in the US that enable and encourage illness and disease to spread?

  • We have the best health care system in the world
  • We are smarter than backwards Africans
  • We don’t have to play by the rules of other countries
  • Private health care is better than public health care
  • Cutting funding to “big government medical programs” will have no consequences that the private sector can’t fix
  • If push comes to shove the military can handle it, even if it is not their expertise

Now I’m pretty good at predictions, at least where the media is concerned. As this unfolds you will see how the US media accept America’s “deep-seated beliefs and cultural practices” in the response to this crisis.  They will both play up the fear for the “news value” and play down fears with quotes from medical experts on the medical realities of Ebola. But they will not be bringing in anyone to talk about the other problems that must be addressed for future pandemics. Problems specific to countries with unfettered capitalistic market worshiping economies. As the good director-general said, “…this is not just a medical or public health problem. It is a social problem.”

I don’t anticipate that the two patients at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta will spread the contagion. But while the media might question the decision to bring the patients here, they will not question the underlying assumptions of US authorities.  We don’t listen when someone outside the US says it is, “extremely unwise for national authorities and the international community to allow an Ebola virus to circulate widely.” 

Will we learn from this? Probably. The people who need to learn are ‘free market’ conservatives, who only learn when something is happening to them personally. Then they have an excuse to change their minds. Do not underestimate the power of giving them a good excuse to do the right thing.

I’m not a fan of “I told you so.” if it doesn’t lead to changes. In this case, when there are problems I hope we learn the right lessons. Let’s be prepared to point them out and make suggestions that disabuse these deep seated beliefs.   Otherwise it will be just another disaster capitalism event and an opportunity for private industry to suck up taxpayer money.

How Worshiping The Market Can Bring Ebola to the US

By: spocko Wednesday July 30, 2014 2:24 pm

Anyone watching The Strain? It combines some real science with zombie/vampire stuff mixed in. What stuck me about the show was how realistic some parts were (like the first CDC team sweep of the plane) combined with a ridiculous number of people carrying the idiot ball. But the part that seems craziest is actually more realistic than people realize.

In this clip the CDC is overruled in a medical quarantine situation by the Director of Health and Human Services.

There is no way this would happen in real life in the US. I just can’t suspend my disbelief when they get stuff like this wrong. When it comes to people’s health the medical community always has the final say, like Bones had over Captain Kirk on the Enterprise.

But then I remembered when Christine Todd Whitman overruled the EPA and ignored the medical community and doctors’ advice regarding people working at ground zero after 9/11.

The EPA was not given full control over its press releases in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. Administrator Whitman issued a memo on September 12 announcing that ‘all statements to the media should be cleared through the NSC [National Security Council] before they are released,’ and the New York Post reported that National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice was ‘the final decision maker’ regarding the release of information by the EPA.6 In addition the OIG report details how the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) pressed the EPA to ‘add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones’ from agency press releases. For example, information discussing the potential health risk for ‘sensitive populations’ from exposure to particulate matter was discouraged from inclusion in a press release by a CEQ official, and language discussing detected levels of asbestos was softened. The involvement of NSC and CEQ officials raises questions as to whether public health concerns were trumped by political and security priorities.

–World Trade Center Rescue Workers Believed EPA, Ended Up Sick
Union of Concerned Scientists.

What were Whitman’s motives for downplaying the risk? “Political and security priorities.” Now of course the circumstances in that case were extraordinary. But decisions like this are made all the time under less extraordinary circumstances.

Ebola outbreak: Liberia shuts most border points

We are focusing on Ebola because it is news. We won’t get Ebola here in the US for a number of reasons. One reason is Ebola doesn’t have a good lobbying and PR firm. When it comes to infectious diseases, it helps to have people in high places. People who want to describe their pathogen as “naturally occurring,” who delay life saving performance standards, dictate which words doctors can use to describe a condition and most astonishingly, convince everyone the burden of protection is on the victims in order to avoid responsibility for their problems.

People in the US are not dying from Ebola, however they are dying from Salmonella, Listeria, Norovirus, Campylobacter spp, E.Coli O157:H7, and host of other food-borne pathogens.

Our doctors know that protecting the lives of the people is more important than the parts of economy that might be negatively affected in the short term. But as we see in this fictional show and in real life, sometimes the doctors aren’t in charge when it comes to prevention and spread of disease. What would seem outrageous behavior if it happened with one infectious disease is considered the “industry standard” when it comes to another.

BREAKING: UPDATE Malaysia Airlines Plane Reported Shot Down on Ukraine-Russia border

By: spocko Thursday July 17, 2014 8:43 am


A Malaysian Airlines craft in flight

Spocko anticipates the media spin as another Malaysian Airlines flight crashes.

In the minutes, hours and days to come you will be reading a lot about this story. This is a tragedy with the loss of multiple lives that will effect thousand of people’s families and friends. There will be a lot of speculation, incomplete information and conflicting reports. My friend Dave Johnson often reminds me that people who closely follow the news with a critical eye notice how it is shaped, spun and redirected.

We will be told not to speculate without enough information, while all the experts and both ‘fair and balanced’ broadcasters and journalists WILL speculate. Even people we respect will offer opinions based on certain biases. This is a chance to watch for them. Maybe even to point them out.

Here is the Google News headlines and links as off 9:29 PST:

Malaysia Airlines Loses Contact With Passenger Plane Over Ukraine ABC News


Realtime Coverage

  • Ukraine Accuses Russia of Shooting Down Fighter Jet Wall Street Journal
  • Malaysia Airlines Passenger Jet Crashes in Ukraine, Reports Say NBCNews.com 
  • Ukraine accuses Russia of downing plane; Moscow attacks new sanctions Los Angeles Times
  • Ukraine says Malaysian airliner shot down, 295 dead -agency Cyprus Mail
  • Ukraine’s president say his nation did not shoot at any airborne targets; Minneapolis Star Tribune
  • Malaysian airliner crashes in east Ukraine DigitalJournal.com 
  • Malaysia Airlines Loses Contact With Plane Over Ukraine KUOW
  • Malaysia Airlines Passenger Jet Crashes in Ukraine, Reports Say NBCNews.com 

Here are a few questions that will come up in maybe 24 or 48 hours. I don’t want to minimize the tragic loss of life, but that will not stop Fox News from working hard to pin this on liberals, Obama, Hillary Clinton or John Kerry.

  1. How does this help John McCain? In his comments about Foreign policy? (UPDATE. John McCain just appeared on CNN at 10:30 PM)
  2. What did Obama know about this? Did his failure to act in the Ukraine crisis help this happen?
  3. Isn’t this just a distraction from Benghazi? (Three to five days for this one, I’m starting the clock.)
  4. Has John Kerry responded? Hillary? Why are they always so slow to respond when it involves Obama’s failures in foreign policy?


If you were Roger Allies what spin would you suggest your anchors use on this news piece to attack liberals, the White House and Hillary Clinton?

If you compare headlines then substance and analysis as the story develops you will see how Fox New, Limbaugh and the RW media move the needle away from the issues there and move them to the issues here. They will be asking, How does this effect the November election of Obama? That is how it is done by the grandmaster of deception to further his agenda.

Can We Talk About the Economics, Politics and Religion in Snowpiercer?

By: spocko Wednesday July 2, 2014 5:00 pm

Snowpiercer. Have you seen it? Heading into the blizzard

I saw the movie Brazil when it was first released in a big domed theater in San Jose.

It blew me away. I dragged others to it so I could see it again and again. I wanted people to see it so we could discuss it. I feel the same way about Snowpiercer.

I’ve read about 20 reviews of the movie and most reviewers assume everyone “gets” the various issues the film brings up and focuses on the directing, acting and cinematography. Some call the allegories and metaphors “heavy handed.” Others touch on the economic theories shown and class struggles, but don’t spell them out. I’d like to hear from people who can spell them out and talk to me about what they mean.

For example, there are a lot of references to Ayn Rand’s work. I know about her work but not enough to spot all the connections. Someone asked me if Snowpiercer portrayed her views in a good or bad light. I said both, it depended on which part of the train you were on. Which raised the question, “Where am I in our economic train? How did I get here? Why am I not revolting?” (Although some may disagree on that last bit.)

Before I watched the movie I read Thomas Franks’ interview with author Barry Lynn. The title is, “Free markets killed capitalism: Ayn Rand, Ronald Reagan, Wal-Mart, Amazon and the 1 percent’s sick triumph over us all.”

They discuss the concentration of economic power in many different industries, it’s really shocking to read and describes how we got here and how certain ideas are harming us. He brings up interesting history from the era when people understood why concentration of power was a bad thing and what they did to prevent it.

When did America stop suspecting and fighting power, concentration and dominance? 

I recently had a great conversation with a friend on this issue who reminded me of some small “r” republican values that are out of favor. One was the idea that dominance is something that should be thwarted. As in the East Indian Company and a certain Boston Tea party. Steps were put into place to stop concentrations of power. Some are still in place, but not enforced or toothless. During Reagan’s era the idea was to switch focus to the consumer and prices. Frank asks:

All the stuff you’re saying about industrial liberty and freedom from bigness, private governance, whatever, industrial feudalism, all that’s gone and it’s about the consumer and prices?

Another aspect of the movie were religious themes and human empathy. I spotted Christianity and Hinduism, but also the dominant religion of many in America, the religion of the free market. 

I don’t want to spoil the movie for people, I want people to see it. I want to ask the people who call themselves Christians, how can you actively embrace programs that are clearly against the teaching of Christ? I want to ask their response to real world scenarios, not just movie ones. But if I shove real hypocrisy in their face what do I get? “Well I’m not perfect, we are all sinners.” If you really worship Christ show me. Show me in every action of your life. Are you really following His teachings or Ayn Rand? I understand not following all of a Church’s teachings, some are out of date, but if you aren’t following those, what model ARE you following? Are you a cafeteria capitalist? Or a cafeteria Catholic?

In the movie Snowpiercer are you more like John Hurt’s character or Tilda Swinton? Do you relate to the cook or the gate lock designer? Or do you think you run the train? Do you punch down or punch up when it comes to injustice?

Murdoch’s Favorite Editor, Rebekah Brooks, Cleared of Phone Hacking Charges

By: spocko Tuesday June 24, 2014 4:12 pm

News International in front of the Select Committee

Former News of The World editor Rebekah Brooks cleared of all charges. Fellow former editor Andy Coulson found guilty of conspiracy to hack phones.

The former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks has been cleared of all charges in the phone hacking trial at the Old Bailey.<

Brooks, the one-time editor of the News of the World, was overcome with emotion as she was found not guilty of involvement in a conspiracy to hack phones between 2000 and 2006, as well as misconduct in a public office and perverting the course of justice.

But while Brooks walked free from court to a waiting black cab today, her fellow former editor and ex-Downing Street spin doctor Andy Coulson was found guilty on one count of phone hacking.

The jury returned this morning after continuing its deliberations for an eighth day, following the high profile trial that began in October last year.

Brooks and Coulson, along with retired managing editor Stuart Kuttner, had been accused of being part of a conspiracy to hack phones over the course of a six-year period.  – The Independent, Adam Withnall

In July of 2012 I hosted a Book Salon on Tom Watson’s and Martin Hickman’s book: Dial M for Murdoch: News Corporation and the Corruption of Britain. At the time I remember thinking what a great story it was and I wanted to learn how we could have a similar impact on Fox News and News Corp here in the US.

Now we see what political power can get you. I’m sure there is a lesson for us here in the US. I remember thinking, “With a combo of good journalists, lawyers and politicians we could uncover dirt at Fox News.” We could even use the Corrupt Foreign Practices Act. But the trick was to find others who felt as strongly as I did.

I’m an idealist and a fighter. I’m not a prosecutor or politician. One of my big take aways from this trial is that your target and goals don’t have to be the same. The King will protect his favorites but he will also sell out almost anyone else to do it. Aim for the top knowing the King will even burn the Prince if necessary, which gets you the Prince! The Prince’s crimes are just as bad, and that can lead to reforms.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life?

This last week I’ve been rather depressed about the ability of powerful people to skirt and use the law, the political system and a cooperating media to avoid accountability. 

But I don’t want to discount all the good work that was done by the journalists, lawyers and politicians like MP Tom Watson who brought this hacking case to light. It was used to reign in some of Murdoch’s power.

I sometimes wonder, “What can we do to reign in Roger Ailes power?” Is there a strategic campaign to make it happen? We can see that it’s not just money in politics that has an impact, it is also the media in politics. Murdoch loses 100′s of millions of dollars on some newspaper properties because he knows that is a different kind of power. (Which reminds me of the old joke, “Sure we lose money on every paper we sell but we make it up in VOLUME!”) Murdoch wants and has VOLUME!

LOL Comedy Media, But We Need the Real Media Too

The people that really cover the media today are the comedy media. The comedy media is great, but their work doesn’t lead to prosecutions, firings, civil damages and prison time. I’m sure Colbert and Stewart will have a hilarious story about this case but they are just reacting to and mocking the media. The non-comedy media shouldn’t be afraid of taking on Fox News, but they are since they think they might get a job there some day.

Maybe Fox News Shouldn’t get the Press Exemption 

I don’t think Fox News is a “Press entity” but the house PR and advertising firm for the Republican party and the conservative agenda. (FEC might even agree with me see press exemption part some day.) A story about illegal actions going on behind the scenes at Fox would help make this clear. The story about Alies and his PR guy could have been a criminal case if we had some of that zeal for prosecution here in the US instead of pay offs.