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07/21/2003 Archived Entry: "John Gilmour"

Fortunately for my blogging schedule, I have been flooded by emails that deserve to be circulated. Thus, and without further ado, here are the two best...

First fav email of the day -- from Lee K. who forwarded John Gilmour's open email to Declan McCullagh's politics and technology mailing list, PolyTech.

Previous Politech messages on this subject: 1) "John Gilmore's suit over secret FAA regs in SF court on 1/17"; 2) "John Gilmore sues Feds over secret your-papers-please rule"; and, 3) previous McCullagh article about Gilmour.

JOHN GILMOUR: "Your readers already know about my opposition to useless airport security crap. I'm suing John Ashcroft, two airlines, and various other agencies over making people show IDs to fly -- an intrusive measure that provides no security. But I would be hard pressed to come up with a security measure more useless and intrusive than turning a plane around because of a political button on someone's lapel.

My sweetheart Annie and I tried to fly to London today (Friday June 18) on British Airways. We started at SFO, showed our passports and got through all the rigamarole, and were seated on the plane while it taxied out toward takeoff. Suddenly a flight steward, Cabin Service Director Khaleel Miyan, loomed in front of me and demanded that I remove a small 1" button pinned to my left lapel. I declined, saying that it was a political statement and that he had no right to censor passengers' political speech. The button, which was created by political activist Emi Koyama, says "Suspected Terrorist". Large images of the button and I appear in the cover story of Reason Magazine this month, and the story is entitled "Suspected Terrorist". (Reason hasn't put the current issue online yet, for some reason.)

The steward returned with Capt. Peter Hughes. The captain requested, and then demanded, that I remove the button (they called it a "badge"). He said that I would endanger the aircraft and commit a federal crime if I did not take it off. I told him that it was a political statement and declined to remove it. They turned the plane around and brought it back to the gate, delaying 300 passengers on a full flight.

We were met at the jetway by Carol Spear, Station Manager for BA at SFO. She stated that since the captain had told her he was refusing to transport me as a passenger, she had no other course but to take me off the plane. I offered no resistance. I reminded her of the court case that United lost when their captain removed a Middle Eastern man who had done nothing wrong, merely because "he made me uncomfortable". She said that she had no choice but to uphold the captain and that we could sort it out in court later, if necessary. She said that my button was in "poor taste".

Later, after consulting with (unspecified) security people, Carol said that if we wanted to fly on the second and last flight of the day, we would be required to remove the button and put it into our checked luggage (or give it to her). And also, our hand-carried baggage would have to be searched to make sure that we didn't carry any more of these terrorist buttons onto the flight and put them on, endangering the mental states of the passengers and crew.

I said that I understood that she had refused me passage on the first flight because the captain had refused to carry me, but I didn't understand why I was being refused passage on the second one. I suggested that BA might have captains with different opinions about free speech, and that I'd be happy to talk with the second captain to see if he would carry me. She said that the captain was too busy to talk with me, and that speaking broadly, she didn't think BA had any captains who would allow someone on a flight wearing a button that said "Suspected Terrorist". She said that BA has discretion to decline to fly anyone. (And here I had thought they were a common carrier, obliged to carry anyone who'll pay the fare, without discrimination.) She said that passengers and crew are nervous about terrorism and that mentioning it bothers them, and that is grounds to exclude me. I suggested that if they wanted to exclude mentions of terrorists from the airplane, then they should remove all the newspapers from it too.

I asked whether I would be permitted to fly if I wore other buttons, perhaps one saying "Hooray for Tony Blair". She said she thought that would be OK. I said, how about "Terrorism is Evil". She said that I probably wouldn't get on. I started to discuss other possible buttons, like "Oppose Terrorism", trying to figure out what kinds of political speech I would be permitted to express in a BA plane, but she said that we could stand there making hypotheticals all night and she wasn't interested. Ultimately, I was refused passage because I would not censor myself at her command.

After the whole interaction was over, I offered to tell her, just for her own information, what the button means and why I wear it. She was curious. I told her that it refers to all of us, everyone, being suspected of being terrorists, being searched without cause, being queued in lines and pens, forced to take our shoes off, to identify ourselves, to drink our own breast milk, to submit to indignities. Everyone is a suspected terrorist in today's America, including all the innocent people, and that's wrong. That's what it means. The terrorists have won if we turn our country into an authoritarian theocracy "to defeat terrorism". I suggested that British Airways had demonstrated that trend brilliantly today. She understood but wasn't sympathetic -- like most of the people whose individual actions are turning the country into a police state.

Annie asked why she, Annie, was not allowed to fly. She wasn't wearing or carrying any objectionable buttons. Carol said it's because of her association with me. I couldn't have put it better myself -- guilt by association. I asked whether Annie would have been able to fly if she had checked in separately, and got no answer. (Indeed it was I who pointed out to the crew that Annie and I were traveling together, since we were seated about ten rows apart due to the full flight. I was afraid that they'd take me off the plane without her even knowing.) Annie later told me that the stewardess who had gone to fetch her said that she thought the button was something that the security people had made me wear to warn the flight crew that I was a suspected terrorist(!). Now that would be really secure.

I spoke with the passengers around me before being removed from the plane, and none of them seemed to have any problem with sitting next to me for 10 hours going to London. None of them had even noticed the button before the crew pointed it out, and none of them objected to it after seeing it. It was just the crew that had problems, as far as I could tell.

John Gilmore

PS: For those who know I don't fly in the US because of the ID demand: I'm willing to show a passport to travel to another country. I'm not willing to show ID -- an "internal passport" -- to fly within my own

Second fav email of the day -- a forwarded exchange between Michigan Congressman John Dingell and Ward Connerly of the American Civil Rights Institute. The issue that sparked the exchange was a difference of opinion on affirmative action. [Paragraph breaks have been deleted or rearranged.]

JOHN DINGELL (July 9, 2003) "Mr. Connerly: The people of Michigan have a simple message to you: go home and stay there. We do not need you stirring up trouble where none exists. Michiganders do not take kindly to your ignorant meddling in our affairs. We have no need for itinerant publicity seekers, non-resident troublemakers or self-aggrandizing out-of-state agitators. You have created enough mischief in your own state to last a lifetime. We reject your "black vs. white" politics that were long ago discarded to the ash heap of history. Your brand of divisive racial politics has no place in Michigan, or in our society. So Mr. Connerly, take your message of hate and fear, division and destruction and leave. Go home and stay there, you're not welcome here. With every good wish, Sincerely yours, S/signature John D. Dingell, Member of Congress." This mailing was prepared, published, and mailed at taxpayer expense This stationery printed on paper made of recycled fibers.

WARD CONNERLY's response: "Congressman Dingel, Thank you for such a warm and hospitable welcome to Michigan.

Amendment I of the United States Constitution is, in part, as follows: "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peacefully to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Amendment XIV of the Constitution is, in part, as follows: "All persons born and naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." Over the years, the courts have consistently held that these Amendments, taken together, grant to all American citizens the right to travel freely, to express their views, and to participate in the affairs -- short of exercising a vote -- of any village and hamlet in the nation. For most, this is so well established as to be beyond question.

Perhaps, you are unaware that I am an American citizen -- a distinction from which I derive the rights and privileges enumerated in the Constitutional Amendments noted above. It is quite clear from your reaction to the recent decisions handed down by the United States Supreme Court to sanction the use of racial preferences, notwithstanding Amendment XIV, that you have little regard for that Amendment; so I should not be surprised that you would also want to deny me the rights that I enjoy pursuant to the Constitution. I am obliged to tell you, Congressman, that I, on the other hand, do believe in and honor the Constitution of this nation. And, it confirms that my right to visit Michigan, as a full-fledged American citizen and not simply as a tourist, is not contingent on your invitation. As a taxpaying U.S. citizen, anywhere I set foot on American soil is my "home," just as much as it is yours.

If you would grant me a waiver so that my tax dollars would not be used to support racial discrimination in the State of Michigan, I would more respectfully entertain your impudent advice. Absent that, the term arrogance does not begin to capture the essence of a United States Congressman advising an American citizen to refrain from participating in the affairs of his government. Ironically, your advice is the echo of southern segregationists who sought the comfort of states' rights to practice their discrimination against black Americans. Have you learned nothing about "civil rights" from that horrible chapter in our nation's history?

There is such an eerie similarity between them and you that it bears comment.
--George Wallace, Lester Maddox and others who shared their rabid and abhorrent views believed in treating people differently on the basis of skin color -- and so do you.
--They wanted to practice their brand of racism free from the interference of "meddling, outside agitators -- and so do you.
--They called those who disagreed with them and merely wanted to exercise their right to assemble "carpetbaggers" and "non-resident troublemakers" who were "stirring up trouble where none exists" -- and so do you.
--They were arrogant and intolerant bullies -- and so are you.

Your letter is a prime example of why the texture of civil discourse in our nation is so coarse. It is an indication of why Members of Congress need the police to intervene to separate them from fighting. What a terrible example for our children and our grandchildren. As a member of the Congress, I suppose you have the right to send narrow-minded and venomous letters, at taxpayers' expense, to anyone of your choosing. But, you ought to be ashamed of telling any American citizen to "go home and stay there." How dare you!

By promoting the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, those of us who believe in this cause -- I among them -- are doing what the Constitution of Michigan allows; and you should not be seeking to abridge the right of American citizens to use processes allowed by law to implement their civic beliefs and values. Candidly, if you were true to the oath of office that you have sworn to defend and uphold, you would not be so content to look the other way while Jennifer Gratz, Barbara Grutter and Pat Hamacher were being discriminated against. You would object to the Supreme Court's defiance of the simple command of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that all Americans be treated equally "without regard to race, color or national origin."

The thought does not escape me, Congressman -- and it should not you either -- that some of my tax dollars contribute to your salary. That makes me an involuntary constituent of yours. Therefore, I must ask, do you treat all of your constituents with such contempt, arrogance and high-handedness, or do you reserve such treatment for the "uppity" ones who insist on using their civil rights to participate in public policymaking?

You say that I am not welcome in Michigan and that the "people of Michigan" don't want me there. I believe you represent the 15th Congressional District of Michigan and nothing else. Longevity has its way of creating delusions of grandeur, and I believe that has happened to you. In addition, I must ask whether you have run your "get out of town" sermon by the hundreds of other Michiganders who have called, written and emailed me to come to Michigan and assist in the restoration of the principle of "equal protection under the law?"

You have said I am "stirring up trouble where none exists." That certainly isn't what I hear from other prominent people in Michigan or what I have read in the dailies of your state. And, it is certainly inconsistent with my observations about Benton Harbor and other racial circumstances in Michigan? It defies credulity that you could be so out of touch with your state as to not recognize the racial tension that lies within, much of which has been engendered by racial preferences at the University of Michigan. I note with great interest that Reverend Jesse Jackson has announced his intention to open an office of his Rainbow Coalition in Benton Harbor. Would you please be kind enough to send me a copy of your letter to him demanding that he "go home and stay there." I understand that he is also a non-resident of Michigan.

Since you so proudly posted your letter to me on your website, I trust that you will do the same with my response. With equally good wishes. Sincerely, Ward Connerly"

Best to all,

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