Google News from a parallel universe. Reading through the whole thing just leaves me feeling sad.
Just a little something to inspire you with awe and make you feel really, really tiny. It’s a big ass universe out there. Do click through to the full size version of this pic.
Security Guru Bruce Schneier makes an excellent observation regarding the much hyped relationship between photography and terrorism:
Except that it’s nonsense. The 9/11 terrorists didn’t photograph anything. Nor did the London transport bombers, the Madrid subway bombers, or the liquid bombers arrested in 2006. Timothy McVeigh didn’t photograph the Oklahoma City Federal Building. The Unabomber didn’t photograph anything; neither did shoe-bomber Richard Reid. Photographs aren’t being found amongst the papers of Palestinian suicide bombers. The IRA wasn’t known for its photography. Even those manufactured terrorist plots that the US government likes to talk about — the Ft. Dix terrorists, the JFK airport bombers, the Miami 7, the Lackawanna 6 — no photography.
Given that real terrorists, and even wannabe terrorists, don’t seem to photograph anything, why is it such pervasive conventional wisdom that terrorists photograph their targets? Why are our fears so great that we have no choice but to be suspicious of any photographer?
Because it’s a movie-plot threat.
Simply, terrorists don’t do photography. And if they did, I’m quite sure they’d be doing it with something innocuous like a camera phone or even a spy camera, rather than a great big digital SLR with a tripod. Yet I’ve personally been stopped and questioned by security guards or police officers so many times now that I hardly find the incidents worth mentioning anymore. I’ve simply begun to carry around one of these and grown more assertive in my rights, and for the most part I’m left alone after a few short questions. But it’s still ridiculous that I’m bothered at all.
Further, as disturbing as any harassment of civil liberties is, that’s not even the real problem. The bigger issue raised by the War on Photography, as Schneier points out is that it’s an astonishing misdirection of security efforts:
The problem with movie-plot security is it only works if we guess the plot correctly. If we spend a zillion dollars defending Wimbledon and terrorists blow up a different sporting event, that’s money wasted. If we post guards all over the Underground and terrorists bomb a crowded shopping area, that’s also a waste. If we teach everyone to be alert for photographers, and terrorists don’t take photographs, we’ve wasted money and effort, and taught people to fear something they shouldn’t.
And even if terrorists did photograph their targets, the math doesn’t make sense. Billions of photographs are taken by honest people every year, 50 billion by amateurs alone in the US And the national monuments you imagine terrorists taking photographs of are the same ones tourists like to take pictures of. If you see someone taking one of those photographs, the odds are infinitesimal that he’s a terrorist.
America just nominated an African American to be President of the United States. Right here, right now, history is being made.
But Ms. Chemtob’s clients are concerned all the same, she said, because their incomes have shrunk, say, to $2 million a year from $8 million, and they know that their 2008 bonus checks are likely to be much less impressive.
One of her clients recently confessed that his net worth had decreased to $8 million from more than $20 million, and he thinks that his wife will leave him. He has hidden their fall in fortune by taking on debt to pay for her extravagant clothes and vacations.
“I literally had to sit there and tell him that he had to tell his wife that she had to stop spending,” she said. “He was actually scared she would leave him because their financial situation changed so drastically.”
Don’t stop there, it gets even better. I almost dropped my monocle reading this:
THEIR spouses could leave them when they discover that their net worth has collapsed to eight figures from nine. Friends and business associates could avoid them as they pass their lunchtime tables at Barney’s or the Four Seasons. And these snubs could trickle down to their children.
“They fear their kids won’t get invited to the right birthday parties,” said Michele Kleier, an Upper East Side-based real estate broker. “If they have to give up things that are invisible, they’re O.K. as long as they don’t have give up things visible to the outside world.”
“A year ago, he would have only flown Gulfstreams,” Mr. Sullivan said. “Now it’s moving to the point where he’s flying Beech jets and Learjets.”
And perhaps the best excuse for going off your diet, ever:
ONE Wall Street executive, Ms. Bauer said, snacks on nuts in her office all day to manage the stress of potentially losing her position, while another confesses to inhaling four bowls of cereal at 10 p.m. Even their sex lives are suffering, Ms. Bauer said, because of the stress or because the weight gain makes them feel unattractive.
Her clients blame the economy for their out-of-control waistlines.
“The number one concern that they have is the state of the financial market,” she said. “There definitely is a correlation between the stock market and weight gain.”
Suffice to say, the lack of perspective these people have is simply mind boggling. These people are everything that’s wrong with the US economy right now, and a good chunk of what’s wrong with our culture as a whole.
It’s still nowhere near a resolution.
But, having watched it for most of the day* on C-SPAN… I have to say, this is strangely compelling TV. The arguments, the passion of the supporters, even the legalese – it’s, well, engaging. This is surprisingly good stuff. That, or I’m an unashamed political junky with nothing better to do on a Saturday. Not sure which.