Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Trumpezoic Era

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Sidd Bikkannavar

One of my friends is a senior VP at one of the major American investment firms. A couple of years ago her company took all the senior officers for a convention in China. They were instructed to leave their cell phones and computers at home and were all give clean electronics with no data. That seemed extreme to me. I recently spent a day in the Beijing airport. A friend of mine from one of the big Silicon Valley tech firms warned me to not turn on my phone unless I didn't mind all the data being compromised instantly. So I kept it powered down; never turned it on for a second. About a month later I got a bill for over $100 for calls from Beijing. I explained to my service provider that I never even turned the phone on in Beijing and after almost an hour of arguing with a couple of agents, they wiped the $100 off the bill. But they refused to discuss how the charges got there.

Who wants to live in a country like that? Have you heard about Sidd Bikkannavar? Although the name might give him a problem, Bikkannavar is entitled to run for president of the U.S. Unlike Ted Cruz, he was born in the U.S. He's an optics technology scientist working at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Last month he was in Chile racing solar-powered cars in Patagonia. But when he tried returning home, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport apparently didn't like his South Indian last name. They detained him and demanded he hand over his phone's access PIN. The phone is NASA property and included sensitive data so he was reluctant to turn it over. The agents informed him they could detain him until he complied with their request which he eventually did. They took his phone (and PIN) away and returned it after getting whatever they wanted from it.

As The Verge reported, Bikkannavar is enrolled in Global Entry-- a Customs and Border Patrol program that allows individuals who have undergone background checks to have expedited entry into the country and made a strong case that there was no other reason to detain and search him other than illegal ethnic profiling.
“I asked a question, ‘Why was I chosen?’ And he wouldn’t tell me,” he says.

The officer also presented Bikkannavar with a document titled “Inspection of Electronic Devices” and explained that CBP had authority to search his phone. Bikkannavar did not want to hand over the device, because it was given to him by JPL and is technically NASA property. He even showed the officer the JPL barcode on the back of phone. Nonetheless, CBP asked for the phone and the access PIN. “I was cautiously telling him I wasn’t allowed to give it out, because I didn’t want to seem like I was not cooperating,” says Bikkannavar. “I told him I’m not really allowed to give the passcode; I have to protect access. But he insisted they had the authority to search it.”

Courts have upheld customs agents' power to manually search devices at the border, but any searches made solely on the basis of race or national origin are still illegal. More importantly, travelers are not legally required to unlock their devices, although agents can detain them for significant periods of time if they do not. “In each incident that I’ve seen, the subjects have been shown a Blue Paper that says CBP has legal authority to search phones at the border, which gives them the impression that they’re obligated to unlock the phone, which isn’t true,” Hassan Shibly, chief executive director of CAIR Florida, told The Verge. “They’re not obligated to unlock the phone.”

Nevertheless, Bikkannavar was not allowed to leave until he gave CBP his PIN. The officer insisted that CBP had the authority to search the phone. The document given to Bikkannavar listed a series of consequences for failure to offer information that would allow CBP to copy the contents of the device. “I didn’t really want to explore all those consequences,” he says. “It mentioned detention and seizure.” Ultimately, he agreed to hand over the phone and PIN. The officer left with the device and didn’t return for another 30 minutes.

Eventually, the phone was returned to Bikkannavar, though he’s not sure what happened during the time it was in the officer’s possession. When it was returned he immediately turned it off because he knew he had to take it straight to the IT department at JPL. Once he arrived in Los Angeles, he went to NASA and told his superiors what had happened. Bikkannavar can’t comment on what may or may not have been on the phone, but he says the cybersecurity team at JPL was not happy about the breach. Bikkannavar had his phone on hand while he was traveling in case there was a problem at work that needed his attention, but NASA employees are obligated to protect work-related information, no matter how minuscule.
Yesterday Ron Wyden (D-OR), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sent a letter to John Kelly, Trump's new Secretary of Homeland Security about the incidents forcing Americans to unlock their phones. "These reports are deeply troubling, particularly in light of your recent comments suggesting that (Customs and Border Protection) might begin demanding social media passwords from visitors to the United States. With those passwords, CBP may then be able to log in to accounts and access data that they would otherwise only be able to get from Internet companies with a warrant. Circumventing the normal protections for such private information is simply unacceptable... In addition to violating the privacy and civil liberties of travelers, these digital dragnet border search practices weaken our national and economic security. Indiscriminate digital searches distract CBP from its core mission and needlessly divert agency resources away from those who truly threaten our nation. Likewise, if businesses fear that their data can be seized when employees cross the border, they may reduce non-essential employee international travel, or deploy technical countermeasures, like 'burner' laptops and mobile devices, which some firms already use when employees visit nations like China." Wyden's letter makes it clear that he is about to introduce legislation that will ensure that the "4th Amendment is respected at the border."

The term "Trumpezoic Era" comes from Alan Grayson. It's his idea. It came in a note to his supporters yesterday, a note about how, specifically, he would have made a difference in the Senate had the corrupt and stupid DSCC-- he blames Reid; I blame Schumer-- not sabotaged his campaign on behalf of yappy blue chihuahua, Patrick Murphy, Wall Street's favorite candidate of 2016 (FL- $2,161,722). Grayson, who once told me to expect that all the phone calls between him and I are monitored, wrote that he has a favorite drinking game-- "not taking a drink every time Donald Trump makes a fool of himself. That would make me an alcoholic overnight. The game is noting each time I would have altered the outcome if I had been elected to the Senate last year. So far, in Month One of the Trumpezoic Era, I count three instances."
Number One (Jan. 6):

When the Presidential electoral votes are counted, there is an opportunity to object in writing, and demand a House vote on the objection. By statute (3 USC 15), the objection can be on any grounds. There is only one catch: the objection has to be signed by at least one Congressman and one Senator. (FWIW, this is the only time I know when this particular 1+1 can do anything in our government.) There was no shortage of gutsy Representatives on the day of the Trump electoral vote count: Reps. McGovern, Raskin, Jayapal, Lee, Jackson-Lee, Grijalva and Waters all objected. (Waters also objected in 2000, to George W. Bush’s coronation.) Waters declared, pointedly, "I wish to ask: Is there one United States senator who will join me in this letter of objection?” The 48 Democratic Senators sat stone-silent.


If I had been in the Senate, I would have objected to the investiture of Donald Trump.  You bet your patootie I would have.

Number Two (Jan. 4):

Senators normally require sixty votes to clear their throats, blow their noses, etc., but there are a few exceptions. One of them is called “reconciliation,” The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 limited Senate debate on the annual budget bill to “only” twenty hours-- 20 very boring hours. A filibuster, in contrast, means unlimited Senate debate, terminable only by sixty Senate votes. Since the Congressional Budget Act limits Senate debate automatically, it prevents a filibuster for certain budget bills, known as reconciliation bills. Knowing this, right after the new Congress was sworn in on Jan. 3, the Senate GOP wasted no time and put a budget resolution to repeal Obamacare to a vote on Jan. 4. But on Jan. 4, the President was named “Obama,” and the Veep was named “Biden.” There were 52 GOP Senators on Jan. 4, but Rand Paul (R-KY) voted against the resolution. If a certain Senator Grayson had been there in lieu of a certain Senator Rubio, there would have been only 50 votes to begin the repeal of Obamacare, and the 50-50 tie would have been broken by Vice President Biden, sending the resolution to repeal Obamacare down in flames.

If I had been in the Senate, I would have voted to prevent the repeal of Obamacare, just as I did on 63 occasions in the House. You bet your patootie I would have.

Number Three (Feb. 7):

It irks me that Betsy DeVos testified that student loans increased by 980% during the past eight years, while Sen. Franken pegged the actual figure at 118%. Percentages-- isn’t that something that you learn by fifth grade? However, if gross inaccuracy doesn’t disqualify you to be President-- let us pray for the victims of Muslim terrorism in Sweden, amen!-- then why should it disqualify you from being Education Secretary? No, what really chaps my lips is the point that Sen. Sanders made about DeVos, which is that she can wear this t-shirt with pride:

“My Family Gave $200 Million to the GOP, and All I Got Was This Lousy Cabinet Post.”

DeVos paid good money for that cabinet position.

Which begs the question: America, oligarchy or plutocracy? We report, you decide. Because I remain uncomfortable with the concept that public office can be bought, I would have voted against Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. (I reserve judgment as to whether I would vote for her for Secretary of Religion, which probably is the gig she really wants.) And with Senator Grayson serving in lieu of Senator Rubio, Betsy DeVos would have lost. That would have taught her a lesson.

If I had been in the Senate, I would have defeated the nomination of Betsy DeVos. You bet your patootie I would have.

Oh, and while we are on the subject of nominees, I sure wouldn’t have opened the 115th Congress with those first few appeasement votes we saw on Trump nominees, until rank-and-file Democrats evinced their displeasure with that approach. I would have put the screws to every one of them.

Alas, I haven’t had that opportunity, because the corrupt Democratic Party leadership (first name, Harry) was enchanted, mesmerized, spellbound, bewitched and enthralled by the promise by my primary opponent’s father to provide $10 million for his vicious, vacuous campaign. (In the end, his father gave $500,000, not $10 million, and it sure was much-fun to watch my beclowned party cancel those TV buy reservations, week by week, waiting for Daddy’s money to show up.) I would say that the rest is history, but actually, the Trumpocalyptic history still unfolds, moment by moment, vote by vote, and drink by drink.

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4 Comments:

At 9:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stealing from a movie title: "This is the End" with drumpf playing the part of the ember-devil... if the producers had been prescient, they'd have made it a drumpf devil I'm sure.

Grayson hypothetically would have made it 51-49? With that, I'd bet the ranch that either of the R ladies who symbolically voted nay would have not done so and his nay would have been irrelevant. But whatever. That's what happens. The money gets what they want and individuals can give a symbolic vote (to run on later) as long as the end result doesn't change.

But his comments wrt the DSCC (also applies to the DCCC and DNC) are well taken.

When will voters figure this shit out?

And why doesn't Grayson go Independent or Green? It's not like the Ds are ever going to help him out. Maybe he could move to CA or somewhere where fully formed progressive human beings are appreciated. FL is a shithole unless you're stinking rich or a fascist.

 
At 4:09 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

Alan, you are one terrific outspoken progressive voice and I only hope you will give it another try. Fingers crossed.

More and more Americans are waking up and complacency is being thrown out the window. It is up to the Democrats to fight voter suppression (and gerrymandering) and get out substantially more voters in the 2018 election. It is a waste of time to continue trying to attract light weight Republicans - some are seeing the light anyway and those who don't are not going to change. The DCCC needs Keith Ellison.

Politics will continue to be a horror show for the next two years. Getting through each week has been a nightmare. So many people I know have been having trouble sleeping.

 
At 6:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hone, your comments are always a welcome read.

However, the DNC needs far more than Ellison. If the "so-called party" is to be returned to the '40s, it will need to completely change all members as well. And it will have to tell wall street, war street, insurance, Rx and all other lobbies to go fuck themselves and take donations only from sub-millionaire individuals; start recruiting true liberal/progressives to run AGAINST INCUMBENT FUCKTARD FASCIST DEMOCRAPS as well as Nazis; tell the Clintons and obamanations to go fuck themselves; admit to their perfidy during the '16 primaries and commit to making all elections fair, verifiable and unhackable; oppose Crosshcheck; support SP; support SSI and Medicaid expansion; and a whole laundry list of actual positions that support everyone they and the Rs have completely forgotten/ignored since 1980.
They need to go where the Nazis won't go... not just slightly less evil.

They ain't gonna do that just with Ellison... who probably won't win anyway.

That party and its DxCCs need to be starved (of votes) to death and something new needs to fill that vacuum. This has been true since Clinton et al first corrupted the Ds via the DLC. But voters are unfathomably stupid, like Charlie Brown who keeps letting Lucy pull out the football for decades.

 
At 4:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All should remember that it is 447 thoroughly corrupt and evil DNC "members" who are voting here. It isn't us/US and it isn't the 180 million non-Nazi voters.

Remember who is voting for the leader of the party of slightly less racist fascist neoliberal neocon warmongering money whores. It's 447 of the MOST corrupt fascist neoliberal neocon warmongering money whores this side of tom delay.

 

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