(hat tip: DarkfireTaimatsu on FSTDT)
Other than being a bit to soft on fundies at the end, this seems pretty reasonable to me.
(hat tip: DarkfireTaimatsu on FSTDT)
Other than being a bit to soft on fundies at the end, this seems pretty reasonable to me.
If you hadn’t already noticed, I am a keen hobbyist photographer. I love going out with my family and taking pictures of everything around me. This is pretty harmless and it gives us nice pictures to hang on the walls or foist off on relatives in place of Christmas and Birthday presents. As a pastime, there could be much worse.
Being interested in photography, I always considered myself lucky that I was born in a democracy where people are basically free to indulge in their hobbies and predominantly interested in landscape photography where you dont have to ask someone to smile.
It seems, however, I was actually quite wrong and it is only my tendency for landscape shots that keeps me on the right side of the law. Despite our “evil freedoms” being abhorrent to the nutcases like Usama Bin Laden, we actually have a lot less than you would think. Actually, that isn’t true (yet) but I will come back to this.
Two news items from this weeks Amateur Photographer magazine give pause for thought about our “rights” and freedoms. The first is a worrying incident in the land of the free:
A TV crew filming a story about photographers being harassed at a US railway station were stopped by security and told to switch off their cameras. (…) Tom Fitzgerald, a reporter for Fox 5 television, was interviewing the chief spokesman for rail operator Amtrak when a security guard ordered the crew to stop filming. Ironically, the spokesman had apparently just confirmed to the reporter that photography was, in fact, allowed.
It continues to mention that this is not an isolated incident (flickr discussion) and the madness that “moves are afoot to introduce draft legislation designed to protect the rights of photographers to take pictures.”
It is doubly ironic that they tried to put paid to the film crew filming the company spokesman saying filming was allowed. What better example of corporate non-communication could there be?
The Amtrak Goons are insane, but are not alone. We have a similar problem in the UK:
Olympics 2012 bosses have apologised to photographers who complained about heavy-handed treatment by security guards at the East London construction site. The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) came under fire after two amateur photographers complained following a confrontation outside the site on 3 May. Louis Berk and Steve Kessel say they were left feeling intimidated after guards demanded to see their identification. ODA spokeswoman Laura Voyle said the guards approached the photographers ‘to investigate a report that they had been seen within the Olympic Park boundary’. However, the pair insisted they had been on a ‘public pavement’ and had not ventured onto the Olympic site itself. (…) And [Olympics Security Manager] promised to conduct a ‘review of instructions on how they will deal with issues relating to photography’. (…) However, [Louis Berk] does not feel reassured, telling us: ‘What concerns me is that I still don’t know if the ODA realises that suspicion of taking photographs of their property from a ‘public place’ is not a cause for intervention by the guard force.’
There is more madness around the 2012 London Olympics but this highlights the current problem.
In a nutshell, both instances were the result of private Security Guards not being aware of the rules regarding their location. This is down to poor education by their employer. In the UK you can photograph almost anything (some locations are exempt under the 1911 Official Secrets Act) from a public place. If you can see it, you can photograph it. Kind of makes sense really. It is different if you are on private property, but 90% of the time the property owner will give permission. Again, it makes sense. I can only assume the law is similar in America.
What is worrying is that both instances show people have a default setting of STOPPING photography. I will be charitable and say neither organisation put out instructions to annoy members of the public (including tax payers who paid for the bloody Olympic-farce) so the security guards must have assumed the camera was a security threat. Over the last few months there have been lots of occasions where over zealous guardians have taken offence at people trying to take photographs, even in (weirdly) popular tourist destinations like Trafalgar Square. I have read claims that people were questioned because they could be “terrorists doing reconnaissance” (with an overt camera and tripod – good job Johnny Foreigner isn’t clever enough to use a mobile phone camera…) or other equally spurious risks (there were children present etc..).
The problem is, these fears (and certainly this one in particular) are nonsense. Bruce Schneier, BT’s chief security technology officer, recently wrote an excellent article for the Guardian where he dismisses most of these fears. The article is really, really worth reading even if you aren’t a photographer – there are many more “freedoms” at risk from our apathetic approach to them and “terrorism.” Schneier has an interesting theory that this madness where we fear long-lens cameras is because it is a “Movie Plot Threat.” Also worth reading.
Sadly, it may well be too little, too late for our society. We fear that the evil Islamic terrorists will destroy our culture, so to “beat” them we destroy it ourselves. Well done us.
Oh how times have changed since the halcyon days of the first and second world wars (as well as the wonderful Cold War period). Following on from a line of thinking in my previous post, it seems there are some other generalisations you can make about societies that have experienced the horrors of war, and those that haven’t1.
It seems to me that in our current, peace-addled, societies if a month goes by without a government body declaring war on something the world will stop rotating. This week, New Scientist reports2 “Plans drawn up for a war on drink.” Wow. A real war on drink. Amazing. Will people get medals? When will the US invade the ocean? Comically, the online version tempers its headline somewhat, choosing to use the less comical “WHO considers global war on alcohol abuse.” I find the print version more honest though. (I will attack this at a later date)
Even ignoring the sheer comedy of a “war on drink” there are some telling aspects of modern, western, culture here. It seems every time there is a societal “problem” that a government (or international) organisation want to diminish, the only way it can get public attention is by declaring a war against it. In recent years we have mounted a war on poverty, obesity, hunger, want, crime, drugs and the ever comical war on terror. Are any of these real wars? Of course not. They are just victims of the increasing need to over-dramatise everything to get public attention.
Are they “winnable” wars? Again, no. Can they ever end? Still no.
And herein lies the problem I have with all this word-nonsense.
Westerners (at least English speakers) have a strange association with the term “war.” While it has become the norm for a war to be declared on everything and anything, we still have a lingering memory of what war really entails. This creates a strange situation where people will sacrifice their rights and liberties because “we are at war” without realising the term has simply been misused. Giving up an essential liberty for the “duration” of one of these insane wars is foolhardy – the war will never end so the liberty will never return. Even the War on Terror, which at least involves military action, is not a war the traditional sense of the word.
Compare our peace-loving present with the past of a mere 30 years ago. In the mid-1970s most people in the West could remember the War, lots had served in smaller wars (Korea, Vietnam, Borneo, Aden etc) and there was the ever present threat of a REAL BIG WAR with the USSR. Scary times. Genuinely scary.
Into this mix, we throw in a wide set of terrorist organisations who are bombing, shooting and kidnapping all over the place. Planes were regularly hijacked, visitors to the middle east had a 50:50 chance of being kidnapped each day and the IRA were doing their level best to turn the UK into one big fireball. Even Africa was in at least as much chaos as it is today – only instead of the locals killing each other it was mostly lunatics trying to be mercenary kings.
Throughout this crazy time did we have a war on Smoking? Drink? Obesity? Crime? Violence? Drugs? Nope. We didn’t even have a war on terror; western governments understood that declaring “war” on the terrorists gave them a status they didn’t deserve and changed how the state had to interact with them. One of the things the IRA/INLA hunger strikers were campaigning for was recognition of their struggle as being a war. Instead of starving to death, all they had to do was convert to Islam apparently.
What has changed over the world? So far, the Islamic terrorist threat has killed less British people than the IRA did in 1970 but we are a thousand times more frightened. Does this explain why we declare war on anything and everything?
It strikes me, that in the same manner people who have never experienced war sometimes long for it, a culture which has forgotten the horrors of war may start to long for it.
Worryingly, does this imply western society will, out of fear of the bogeyman, keep going to “war” on things until a real big war reminds everyone what they were trying to avoid? Crucially, when can we declare war on declaring war?
1: I am fully aware that these are generalisations. I am seeking to do no more, and no less, than discuss a trend. There will always be examples which flow counter to this and I wont lose any sleep over them.
2: Unfortunately you need to be a NS subscriber to get full access to this. Buy the magazine or trust me…
The tragedy of missing Madeleine McCann seems no closer to ending than it did three months ago. During this time the media personification of the parents has alternated between saint and sinner – sometimes seemingly at random. For the most of it, in Portugal, the McCann parents have been looked at as (at best) negligent parents while (again, for most of the time) in the UK the middle class, white, professional, religious status of the parents has ensured they have been seen as saints who are undergoing a terrible ordeal. This changed recently, when for a short period the tabloids smelt more blood and in the wonderful manner of the press changed allegiances, barely stopping short of calling for their execution (mentioned previously). Given the natural order of the universe, the “truth” probably lies somewhere between the two extremes and I certainly have my own personal opinion. I should stress at this stage that my opinion is based on nothing other than gut feeling and the information made available by the press, so I have no intention of going into detail about it.
Before I go on, I would also like to point out that one of the main search terms which is driving traffic here recently is a variation on the words “Kate McCann Guilty Violent Murderer.” Given that this is generating a LOT of traffic, I can only guess at public opinion on the matter.
I digress. Risking eternal disfavour by the Great Antero Vipunen, I actually read the Sun newspaper today. I know. I am sorry. I will try not to do it again. In it, good old Archbishop John Sentamu writes a piece titled: We Must Have Faith For Maddie
Despite the overt religious tones in which the the piece is written, this is a largely secular humanist bit of writing with the basic theme being that the presumption of innocence is the bedrock of the legal system. For example, he relates this parable:
In 359AD a trial took place where a local governor, Numerius of Narbonne, was accused of raiding his own coffers. There was little proof but that didnâ€™t stop the whispers and accusations. Still, the prosecutor was convinced the governor was guilty and said as much to the judge, the Roman Emperor Julian. At his trial, the governor denied the charges and the case was due to be dismissed.
The prosecutor was furious: â€œOh, illustrious Caesar,â€ he raged, â€œIf it is sufficient to deny, what hereafter will become of the guilty?â€ Emperor Julianâ€™s response has been repeated in countless trials for the past 1600 years: â€œIf it suffices to accuse, what then will become of the innocent?â€
And, for once, I find my self in total agreement with the Archbishop of York. Scary.
Sadly, despite the valid comments the Archbish makes and the fact the Sun newspaper of all papers prints it, there are a few things which still make me uncomfortable about it. I agree whole heartedly that as a society we should reinforce the automatic presumption of innocence.
Now, with this in mind, have a flick through the Sun news paper (or any media output over the last, say, day) and see how many examples there are where a person accused of a crime is assumed to be guilty. It is a regular occurrence. Take poor Robert Murat for example – due to his past he was largely assumed to be guilty of anything people wanted to accuse him of. He had no support from the various churches, he had no support from rich idiots. He had to defend himself against the court of public opinion.
Not so for the McCann parents. The cynic in me is screaming this is entirely down to their perceived image as “successful” white professionals – anything which implies this part of our society can harbour evil seems to damage the national psyche. In the same edition of the Sun which calls for the return of innocent until proven guilty, OJ Simpson is pretty much called a murderer several times. Is this hypocrisy?
Anyway, enough ranting about this obvious state of the world. Dr Sentamu concludes his article with something that produced mixed emotions:
Our focus must again be upon the love of the parents for their lost daughter, for their hope that they may one day be reunited with her and for their faith that she is still alive.
These must be our watchwords â€” faith, hope and love. For as St Paul once wrote, in the end it is these three which remain: Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Wonderful words, and I too hope she is alive and unharmed. The adult in me is aware that this hope is pretty much doomed to be dashed against the rocks of reality, but I would like it to be so.
Sadly, and again this is cynic in me now, the plight of poor Maddie has shown that despite all the prayer in the world (and the wishes of his representative on Earth, the Pope), the Christian deity will not intervene to save even one life, nor will s/he take action to return a lost child to an apparently grieving family. From this I can only draw one of three conclusions:
It is up to you which option you go for, but I know which one I think is true…
[tags]McCann, Madeleine, Kate, Kate McCann, Maddie McCann, Sentamu, Archbishop of York, Society, Law, Rights, Liberties, Philosophy, Robert Murat, Gerry McCann, The Sun, Tabloids, Media, UK, Culture, Civil Rights, Trial, Crime, Murder, Dr John Sentamu, Church of England, Catholics, CofE, Roman Catholic, Pope, Portugal, Police, Atheism, Humanism, Faith, Hope[/tags]
Some people get all the luck and manage to cultivate their own crop of fundamentally hatstand commenters. I was reading the generally excellent Effect Measure blog over on scienceblogs today and I came across a post titled “Osama visits Bush in Oz, says it’s all a misunderstanding.” It is well worth a read but I know how you all like to stay here so I will summarise it.
Basically, the President of the US was on a visit to Australia. As you can imagine this resulted in all manner of high security perimeters being established and all manner of security guards employed to keep bad people away. A bunch of Australian comedians mocked up a Canadian diplomatic convoy, with one of their number dressed as Usma Bin Laden and made it through the outer perimeter – getting to the door of the hotel the President was staying in. It is only when the comedians pretty much out themselves that the police jump them and arrest everyone who moves.
All in all, this is mildly amusing – on a par with any other one of the stunt-comedy shows on TV at the moment. Still comical, but with a more serious twist, this shows that the vast sums of money (apparently $A165 million) spent on “security” are actually pointless. Yes these were comedians, but they did nothing a terrorist group couldn’t do and being able to drive a limo to the ground floor of a hotel is a good way of delivering several hundred pounds of explosive. (Brighton and the Hotel Europa provide UK based examples of hotels being hit). On this blog we have often ranted about the costs that the illusion of security are incurring and this is highlighted by these events. Every day we are being asked to sacrifice liberty, time and money for “security” measures which, in reality, are empty gestures.
Anyway, this is a side issue now. As always, the comments have gems. It seems that Effect Measure has a dedicated commenter who is so convinced about the inherent “rightness” of his beliefs that he will keep posting, no matter how incoherent or illogical the posts have become. This is some one who KNOWS they are right. Scary stuff. Why do we never get nutters like this commenting here?
The commenter in question here goes by the name “M Randolph Kruger” (which is strangely apt) and the first comment made opens with this line:
I likely would have just shot them and then said, “Its just a misunderstanding.”
And just think, people wonder why Americans kill so many people who are non-combatants or allied troops. It seems there is a significant proportion of the population there with a “shoot first so there is no need for questions” mentality. Wonderful, isn’t it? M Randolph Kruger continues:
I wonder of the Canucks think it was funny too?
Probably. Most Canadians I have met actually know what a sense of humour is.
In 1979 Revere while I was in San Antonio the base was locked down because of a credible threat against the airmen at the base. Along about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and I think it was the first week of August a car carrying some long haired anti establishment types charged the gate. A stop sign went up, they accelerated. Warning shots were fired, they accelerated more, then they opened fire on the SP’s. Bad move. 30 seconds later the assailants were all dead. Over 1000 rounds were fired and the engine was shattered. So in todays world, especially at our embassies and restricted areas to shoot or not to shoot is the question. Screw it. Shoot them all and let God sort them out.
Now, I can only assume this is largely bravado rather than a real boast. Any modern, first world military which needs to expend over 1000 rounds of ammunition to stop one vehicle has many, many problems. As an example, Lee Clegg managed to do it with four rounds and also managed to kill the occupants. Are American service personnel really that badly trained? More importantly this smacks of a military which has lost its purpose in life. The armed forces are not there to protect themselves from the people, but to protect the people from external threats. Was the base so badly defended with physical security measures (ever heard of barriers and gates?) that the vehicle could not be stopped without such firepower and loss of life? Still, I suppose the sign of a healthy democracy is that people need to be scared of the men in uniform, carrying guns…
These guys think this is funny. Okay, hows this? Say Osama bin a Bomba or one of his cronies made it thru and to the proximity of the PM and the Prez and got them both. That makes Dick Cheney President of the United States. Feel better now?
Wow. Prime example of how the angry rightwingers nearly always miss the point by such a degree they end up arguing with themselves. This is brilliant. The whole funny part of the stunt was the apparent ease with which the security was circumvented. Still, it just shows that deep down the ranting-right want to agree with the people they despise…
My point? This is classic treat a war like its a police action stuff. This leaves the point of good sense and fun at the first checkpoint. They could have been killed. Might have to do that once or twice to make the point that it wont be tolerated.
I think MRK’s point is that MRK has no understanding what he is talking about, but needs to sound off on some right wing talking points. I struggled to follow the line of reasoning here, so I might be wrong. I have read this that MRK is saying people who take part in these stunts should be shot to show that the stunts wont be tolerated. The fact that the overall security is a farce is something which should be disguised so that the general public can sit happy. Is that right? What makes this even more ironic is that the security cordon were not able to identify the imposters in time to have shot them anyway. Shooting them after they get to the bomb detonation point is somewhat pointless. What really should have happened is the security actually earned its money and prevented the incursion.
Freddie Randolph Kruger concludes:
There is a LOT of chatter on the internet right now about an attack along or about next week. Specific target?
Fear, uncertainty and doubt. Say it over and over again. There is a LOT of chatter on the internet about alien abductions. There is a lot of chatter on the internet about Elvis being alive. Neither of them are real so why is this “chatter” more believable? It is interesting that MRK uses a term which TV (24, Alias, Spooks etc) and Film (Bourne, Bond et al) have implanted in the collective conciousness as being synonymous with “intelligence” and spy agencies. Chatter is people talking. It means nothing. Don’t be fooled by buzzwords.
For extra comedy points, MRK posted his “next week” dire warning on 6 Sep 07. Come 13 Sep we may know more…
Manhattan…. Keep it in mind about the above post. If they take New York, they take the country with it. It would knock the markets to the ground, it would flatten our economy with it.
Really? Well the last attack didn’t manage to take the country with it. What is special this time?
Should have shot the bastards…… Then they would have my opinion on being funny around the leaders of any country and that includes Clinton.
Aha, again we see a democracy where the people need to fear and bow to their leader. The leader is no longer “of the people, for the people” but in a special class above the people. In the presence of the glorious leader, the general public must learn to modify their behaviour.
M Randolph Kruger is a nutcase of the highest order. I could spend weeks taking his froth filled rants apart, bit by bit, but I will spare you for now. However, as it has been some time since I got to rant at length online, please excuse one more bit of snippets. This time from MRK’s later comment: (Replying to someone called Troff who has ripped him apart)
And it would seem that everyone there in Oz is in la-la land about this and that its no big deal. You dismiss the fact that if it hadnt been a “giggle group” attack that it could have indeed been a valid one Hell bent on taking out the PM and Bush. I think its absolute bullshit that these guys got this close and Troff I really dont care whether you think I am right or not. But I do expect that you would be somewhat open minded to the facts and that is that they could have been anarchists just as well. Full blown wars have broken out over this exact same thing Troff. Archduke Ferdinand ring a bell? Bush wasnt around then old son and thats a fact. I guess that WWI never happened.
What? No, I mean, really, what?
Following this line of “logic” (sneer quotes intended) gives me a headache. MRK is still 180 degrees away from getting the point and arguing with himself. It is bullshit that the comedians got that close, but the shame is not on them for doing it – it is on the “security” for charging millions for nothing. MRK really is missing this by such a wide margin, I have to wonder if he can tie his own shoelaces.
The bit about WWI really is insane.
Anyway, do you see what I mean? Why does this blog only ever seem to get sane comments? This MRK makes Raphael seem “normal.”
[tags]Nutter, Scienceblogs, Society, Australia, Terrorism, Culture, Security, Safety, America, Osma Bin Laden, Philosophy, Effect Measure, Democracy, Rights, Liberties, Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, Civil Disobedience, Rightwing Idiot, Rightwing, Military, Scaremongering, FUD, Fear, Terror[/tags]