Sunday Reading

Bruce Schneier on TSA security: the entire decade or so of airport security since the attacks on America on September 11th 2001, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has not foiled a single terrorist plot or caught a single terrorist. Its own "Top 10 Good Catches of 2011" does not have a single terrorist on the list. The "good catches" are forbidden items carried by mostly forgetful, and entirely innocent, people—the sorts of guns and knives that would have been just as easily caught by pre-9/11 screening procedures. Not that the TSA is expert at that; it regularly misses guns and bombsin tests and real life. Even its top "good catch"—a passenger with C4 explosives—was caught on his return flight; TSA agents missed it the first time through.

In previous years, the TSA has congratulated itself for confiscating home-made electronics, alerting the police to people with outstandingmisdemeanour warrants and arresting people for wearing fake military uniforms. These are hardly the sorts of things we spend $8 billion annually for the TSA to keep us safe from.

I’m posting as a faux hipster from Williamsburg:

One of the weirder locutions in presidential elections is almost unnoticed by those who rely on it. It’s therunning as a… construction, as in: “Gingrich is running as a Washington outsider.” That’s Slate’s John Dickerson. Link. But it could have been anyone in the pundit class.

This is a way of talking that converts artifice into nature. It’s not that anyone believes Gingrich actually is a Washington outsider; we know that’s fake, and Dickerson knows its fake. Rather, we are supposed to concede that attempting to reposition yourself this way is the natural thing to do, if you’re an insider running for president.

A Doctor on Transvaginal Ultrasounds:

"In all of the discussion and all of the outrage and all of the Doonesbury comics, I find it interesting that we physicians are relatively silent. After all, it’s our hands that will supposedly be used to insert medical equipment (tools of HEALING, for the sake of all that is good and holy) into the vaginas of coerced women.

Fellow physicians, once again we are being used as tools to screw people over. This time, it’s the politicians who want to use us to implement their morally reprehensible legislation. They want to use our ultrasound machines to invade women’s bodies, and they want our hands to be at the controls. Coerced and invaded women, you have a problem with that? Blame us evil doctors. We are such deliciously silent scapegoats.

On Violence and Non-Violence, Once Again: Lessons from Recent Political Developments on the Berkeley Campus:

This is the third.

One thing we learned from Officer Tinney’s public testimony is that police officers are trained to “separate out the injury from the reasonable force the police [have] to use.” In other words, in the mind of an officer who has undergone “proper training,” the causal relationship between the “force” used and the injury or death it inflicts, between the act of violence and the wounded, maimed, or dead body, is intentionally obscured. Their batons don’t injure bodies, they make “contact” with them. In the cryptic, sanitized language of crowd control policies and police training manuals, serious injury and even death are present simply as the collateral effect of maintaining “peace and order,” “health and safety”; they are disembodied, bureaucratic facts that need to be filed away.

Justice for Trayvon:

This is one of the complicated paradoxes of demanding justice from the very state that is so often the object of our critique—in order to demand justice we end up conferring legitimacy on the state whose ability to use violence we try to delegitimize. We may want George Zimmerman’s arrest, prosecution, and, probably, imprisonment, not only because some of us, in our more sadistic moments, would like to see him suffer, but also because some of us likely believe it will be a way to register our collective rejection of the white supremacist imperatives that make a person like Trayvon Martin killable. Yet, in appealing to the power of the police power to arrest, and to the power of the courts to sentence Zimmerman, we also make heard a message that we might otherwise hesitate to send: namely, that we believe that these institutions—the police, the courts, the law—are institutions capable of delivering the justice we want. The irony here is especially high in light of the track record of the Sanford Police Department that would, ostensibly be doing the arresting we demand. To what extent are we willing to appeal to a white supremacist police force as if it were capable of delivering justice for Trayvon? And also, why is this just about justice for Trayvon?

It is no disrespect to Trayvon Martin’s memory to point out that our ability to make him into a slogan is based less on who he was as a person as on our desire to fit him into a mold that will allow others to see him as worthy and deserving of justice. That mold is called the Innocent Victim, and its shape can be seen in the details that we choose to highlight and repeat ad nauseam about the case: He was unarmed, he was holding Skittles and Arizona Ice Tea, he was on foot, he had no criminal record, he was a “good kid.” Add whichever narrative that you’d like to hang on him here. It’s rather perverse, really, our collective love and desire for the innocent victim, the victim who “did nothing,” the victim who, we convince ourselves, must have been so pure that we immediately scoff at George Zimmerman’s alibi that he was acting in self-defense. What if Trayvon Martin had come at this white man who held a gun? Would his killing have been justified? Would we be protesting and petitioning as righteously as we are? What if he’d had, instead of Skittles, a bag of weed? Or a beer? Or a knife? Or something else that made it harder to make him look like a kid? How many fewer signatures would that correlate with on

#NoDads Is Our Principal Of Solidarity:

A lot of dudes on twitter seem to dislike #nodads, which is one of the classic blunders, only slightly less famous than "never get involved in a land war in Asia" and "never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line"

To claim as the origin of #NoDads a certain text, or set of texts; an incident or event, a philosophy, is impossible. This simple phrase is a buoy, tossing around in the contrary seas of the universal and the particular, the systemic and the experiential. The stuff that it is made of has seemed, so far, to float, and this is all we know for certain.

The "origin" itself could seem to be an antithetical concept, something necessarily obviated by an embrace of this phrase, a (not so) simple extension of the parental role into the immaterial realm. But origins are never quite that. Their place, in language and in the arts, always finds itself occupied by the texts that find themselves woven of the stuff they're claimed to predate, before they could have known that this is what they were. No origin slips through without precedents, and no precedents content themselves as such; and certainly no text will sit silent and let itself be hermeticized. The relationship can never be father-child, between an origin and that which came of its origination; no, the text is always a virus, its woven cloth catching and unraveling, making all of what pretends to be itself into its own.