Friday, April 25, 2014

Mom Takes on the TSA and the Mom Won

Harassing the government by using government courts against the government is great stuff. Always use the government to attack other parts of the government.

Stacey Armato says agents gave her a hard time when she asked that her breast milk not be X-rayed at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in 2010. ABC says, "She pleaded for an alternate way to screen it."

Armato says while screeners were trying to figure out what to do, they put her in this glass room for nearly 40 minutes, according to AOL.

Armato says the experience was humiliating and made her feel like an animal in a cage. Before being confined, she showed a print-out of the TSA rules to a screener, and this is what happened:

"He read them and it says breast milk is a medical liquid. It is to be alternately screened. And he just didn't want to accept it."

Armato says she takes care of her body, and didn't want the X-ray radiation to negatively affect her milk.

KABC spoke to the mother: "I put a lot of time into eating organic, drinking lots of water, staying in shape. Why would I then send my milk through the X-ray?"

Armato's lawyer filed a federal lawsuit against the TSA. Armato says it was the only way to publicize the incident. KCBS says, "Suing the U.S. government is the only way for us to have been able to promote any kind of change. We had to file a lawsuit in order to hold their feet to the fire."

The TSA offered Armato a $75,000 settlement and promises to re-train screeners. Armato says the settlement will go toward attorney's fees and to a non-profit that provides support for breastfeeding moms.

This reminds me of what Gary Nortn wrote a couple of years back:
How To Bring Down the System

Four words: “Follow the rules exactly.”

That’s it? That’s it.

Any system? Any system.

There are reasons for this. These reasons are universal.

First, every institution assumes voluntary compliance in at least 95% of all cases. This may be a low-ball estimate. Most people comply, either out of fear or lack of concern or strong belief in the system and its goals.

Second, every institution has more rules than it can follow, let alone enforce. Some of these rules are self-contradictory. The more rules, the larger the number of contradictions. (There is probably a statistical pattern here – some variant of Parkinson’s law.)

Third, every institution is built on this assumption: partial compliance. Not everyone will comply with any given procedural rule. There are negative sanctions to enforce compliance on the few who resist. They serve as examples to force compliance. Conversely, very few people under the institution’s jurisdiction will attempt to force the institution to comply exactly with any procedural rule.

These three laws of institutions – and they really are laws – offer any resistance movement an opportunity to shut down any system.


When we think of institutional tyrannies, few come close to matching the system of concentration camps in the Soviet Union: the Gulag. They operated from 1918 until after the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991. It took time to close them in 1992.

In his book,To Build a Castle: My Life as a Dissenter, Vladimir Bukovsky provides one of the finest descriptions of institution-jamming ever recorded. He organized it.

What you are about to read is like nothing you have ever read. I have spent over 45 years studying bureaucracies in theory and practice. I have seen nothing to match it.
Read the rest of the North column here.

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