Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Security Theatre

Before I get started, this post is likely to come across as a bit of a rant. If you don't want to read my half-formed, lefty crap, at least read the article by Bruce Schneier on CNN that inspired it. It's much better written, and far more important that it gets wide coverage than my version. ;-)

Having said that, if you're still with me, here goes: wasting money bugs me, especially when it's a government that's doing it for the purposes of appeasing the 'voice of the people' (see the end of this for more on that meme!). When governments spend enormous sums of money on visible security activity at airports this gets me particularly riled because it's pointless. I quote from Bruce Schneier's opinion article on CNN:
Often, this "something" is directly related to the details of a recent event. We confiscate liquids, screen shoes, and ban box cutters on airplanes. We tell people they can't use an airplane restroom in the last 90 minutes of an international flight. But it's not the target and tactics of the last attack that are important, but the next attack. These measures are only effective if we happen to guess what the next terrorists are planning.
If we spend billions defending our rail systems, and the terrorists bomb a shopping mall instead, we've wasted our money. If we concentrate airport security on screening shoes and confiscating liquids, and the terrorists hide explosives in their brassieres and use solids, we've wasted our money. Terrorists don't care what they blow up and it shouldn't be our goal merely to force the terrorists to make a minor change in their tactics or targets.
Our current response to terrorism is a form of "magical thinking." It relies on the idea that we can somehow make ourselves safer by protecting against what the terrorists happened to do last time.
Of course, the result of this 'magical thinking' is also the terrible changes that are taking place to the due process of criminal proceedings at law. The introduction of arbitrary periods of detention without charge, the holding of terrorism-related trials in camera, the rhetoric of hatred of any other political or cultural outlook than our own... this is dangerous stuff that just serves to increase the threat from those opposed to our way of life. Back to Bruce:
Despite fearful rhetoric to the contrary, terrorism is not a transcendent threat. A terrorist attack cannot possibly destroy a country's way of life; it's only our reaction to that attack that can do that kind of damage. The more we undermine our own laws, the more we convert our buildings into fortresses, the more we reduce the freedoms and liberties at the foundation of our societies, the more we're doing the terrorists' job for them.
So, when you're thinking about who to vote for in future (in the UK general election, for example), why not challenge them to stop the damage that's being done to our relatively free way of life, pull back from culturally aggressive stance in international politics, and stop stoking the flames of the conflicts that spawn terrorist acts.

p.s. on the 'voice of the people', it appears the ‘newspapers’ are being deemed to be the ‘voice of the people’ in that mad country, the (dis-)United Kingdom, so a populist, theatrical, approach to security is the inevitable outcome. Of course, it is the broadcast & newsprint media that treat said ‘newspapers’ as ‘the voice’, in addition to their weak lackeys in Westminster. It’s a vicious circle of bullying and subservience maintained by those with the loudest voices, the deepest pockets and the least integrity.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Camera Update

Christmas gifts have come, and I now have a Sigma 70-300mm zoom lens for my camera. I've tried to photograph the moon with it, but it's amazing how difficult a subject it is. It took 16 shots before I even got something remotely better that a white blob in a black sky. The best I could do in 24 shots is in my photostream, but believe me, I'll be trying that again once I get my cable release!

I also tried to shoot the constellation of Orion - a nice easy constellation to recognise in our northern night sky. Last time I tried, I accidentally left my camera in noise reduction mode, which gave photos that consist of a dozen seriously blurred stars. This time I tried without NR... and instead got a dozen faint blobs with trails that indicated the camera had moved somehow during the 6-8 second exposures. Not quite sure how this happened, but all I can put it down to is that a) my house is old and I was on the top floor, where the floor-boards are not the smoothest and most solid in the world, b) I was manually pressing the button, and c) maybe I breathed on the camera on it's tripod just a little too loudly? So, next time, I'll go to our back yard, so the tripod will be on brick, and I'll use my new cable release... expected from Amazon any day now.

Learning, learning, learning...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change

It's taken me a while to figure out my reaction to the train-wreck that was the Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change, but what finally got me to the point where I can write something was this story (via Chris Samuel's blog in Oz) about China being the force behind the failure of Copenhagen.

Now I'm caught between "I can't believe China could act so terribly" and "Huh, now they've found their scapegoat." This does make we wonder why the 'western powers' didn't make it clearer at the time that China was the source of the problems and either shame them into proper action (a strategy unlikely to succeed due to the lack of the need for the Chinese leadership to respond to any kind of democratic process), or simply to exclude China and set the world on a path to economic exclusion of the country too - I'm sure there are other countries that would be very willing to take up the manufacturer industries currently supplied by China.

There is an interesting kicker in Chris's blog post, and that's from his wife - Donna, who commented on the post thus:
If China railroaded Copenhagen then isn’t it time those of us in Western nations stopped filling our Christmas stockings with cheap Chinese goodies whilst ignoring its those very actions that drive China to want to exhaust its ‘fair share’ of the ‘Industrial Revolution’. We may not have power over our leaders or Copenhagen, but Western buyers do have pocket power without which they can let China know what they think about ethics. Think about that next time you reach for your credit card for that latest gadget. Which regime are you supporting.
I guess this is the small-scale, personal approach to implementing the strategy I suggested above.