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Flying Free

Melody KempMelody Kemp's previous piece for Webdiary was Lost in Lao.

by Melody Kemp

Australians have lost their marbles. According to a recent SMH survey commissioned by Unisys, 55% of Australians would pay more for airline tickets to reduce the risk of terrorist attacks. Ninety eight percent were still afraid of attacks, 90% believed that baggage screening would achieve a reduction in attacks and 71% wanted a complete ban on liquids and gels etc in luggage.

In an alarming show of national irrationality, it seems that traveling Australia has bought the whole fear package, lock stock and three smoking jet engines.

Last month when I was in Australia I had a few showdowns with sullen security men at domestic airports. They are obviously used to blind, shaking obedience from passengers and got very stroppy indeed when I questioned them about the rationale for all this. “Why, I asked, do you have to search everyone? Does this mean that our intelligence services are not too bright? How much does your presence hinder the economy of Australia? What cost benefit analysis has been done to weigh up the slowness, waste of time, and huge technology costs against the gains? Why do I have to take my computer out of its bag? Isn’t the technology good enough to see through 2mm foam?  Who will pay for my laptop if I drop it trying to juggle it and my hand luggage? Why do I have to keep going back through the gate when you can see I have metal studs on my trousers. Why don’t I just take my clothes off here? Why don’t you just pat me down like they do in Miami Vice?”

In answer to my questions about gels and liquids I was told, with a look that Bush got from the Queen, that terrorists were found with substances that could be used to build bombs on board. That was over 10 months ago, remember? The charges were not substantiated.  And if they were, how come liquids and gels are not banned from daily life, as they could be used in places like shopping malls, footy games, trains or buses? Why don’t we ban Woolworths and Price Line? Or do they think that terrorists, whoever they are, are only fixated on bombing planes? If flammable orange juice and exploding hand cream was such a threat, why wasn’t the ban instituted right away? Is the ban linked in any way with a downturn in revenue in airport shops due to passengers bringing their own? Is this just another example of social control? And finally, “Do you know about the boiling frog experiment?” Apparently no one asks these questions: at least not in public.

I was told I had an attitude problem, and maybe I have, being a keen adherent to the old bit of 1970’s graffiti “Question Authority”. It has been my guiding principle since I first read it on a wall in Richmond when I was 14. What I wanted to tell the obese man in grey braid, was that I live in a country where we have bird flu, dengue fever, malaria and a low level conflict, labeled as insurgency. We have one traffic death per day just in the capital of 60,000 people. We lose people every day from unexploded ordnance. And when I check my pulse rate, I find am not afraid. So it is a little hard to take all this seriously, as really, how many attacks have there been on planes in Australia? How many Australians died flying when compared to say deaths from tobacco, alcohol, cars, or the effects of bank foreclosures? I fly happily around Asia fully armed with metal cutlery and bottled water because they are not involved in colonial wars on Muslim nations. I can carry moisturiser through Asia, and wear earrings and bangles in Europe without getting stopped and told to stand on a box. So what is different about Australia? Is it that we are handcuffed to the US?

Saul Eslake, the banker that the governments listens to when he supports their line, wrote a few months ago that the growing security sector provides no real services, diverts revenue from more worthy sectors like education without offering any tangible product. Sure it keeps a lot of surly people off the streets, and puts them in uniforms hopefully made in Australia, but are they worth it? Most other Australians have to adhere to fungible parameters that measure efficiency and effectiveness. How do these apply to airport security? Peter Day, a BBC journalist, asserts that consumers of the not too distant future will be issued biological monitors which measure their pulse rate. The quality of services will be evaluated against whether or not the service increases one's heart rate and thereby health risk. He said that air travel is now the most heart rate raising activity we regularly indulge in. So how does the risk of being blown out of the sky compare to the risk of a coronary over your Gloria Jeans coffee at Sydney airport?

If one wanted to cause havoc, a simple, easy-to-buy-from-a-black-marketer-in-a-variety- of-seedy-third-world-hotels, surface to air missile would do the trick … or maybe a much cheaper plastic chopstick. Or better still copy the oldest terrorist ploy in the world, used by Zionist Irgun. They blew up King David Hotel killing 91 and then elected the instigator Menachim Begin to the post of Prime Minister. Last year Binyamin Netanyahu commemorated the event, thereby showing the world that that form of terrorism is really groovy, and needs to be remembered. Then there are the Tamil Tigers who now have their own navy, and by all accounts air-force; but they only kill other brown folk, so we don’t worry about them.

In the old days, this type of nationalist and corporatist state, with lashings of social control was called fascism. Now it's called security. I am bored by the stern fathers in suits who tell us they are keeping us safe. I had one of my own and he played jazz. Much better.

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Human rights under attack.

Yet, in these extradition cases, the co-conspirator’s evidence will never even be seen by a British court; under the 2003 treaty, it is irrelevant. The US authorities do not have to produce a prima facie case; they merely have to show that they are bringing charges. Even if the US authorities were as wise as Solomon, it would be against natural justice to extradite British citizens with no opportunity to learn the case against them and no opportunity to reply to it.

The 2003 treaty was negotiated in the post 9/11 anxiety about terrorists; it is not being applied to terrorists, but to ordinary businessmen for regulatory offences, which would not be criminal in Britain. It is all very embarrassing. We do not want to tell the Americans that the defects of their justice system have become notorious. Yet the 2003 treaty invades human rights and, in European terms, may well be illegal as well as unjust.

[Times]

Post 9/11 anxiety has been used to extradite ordinary businessmen from England to the US.  Time to call a halt to the erosion of human rights. The “War on Terror” has been used as an excuse to attack the judicial system of Britain and Australia.

Life is full of compromises

On each of the local airline flights Ms Kemp chose to take on her way round SE Asia, half the seats may have been occupied by madrassar graduates dreaming of Paradise and 72 virgins each for all she knows. But she was probably quite safe, at whatever level of pre-flight check. Rearranging antique planes full of Buddhist rice farmers and the odd item of their livestock is clearly not where it’s at for your normal suicide bomber, as a glance through this list shows.

From Ms Kemp’s own clearly reliable account, the airport security staff she encountered in Australia showed her extraordinary patience. If I was a sullen fascist X-ray machine operator, a security wand waver used to blind shaking obedience, or a fat man condemned to wear grey braid all day, I probably would have got a lot stroppier with Ms Kemp, and a lot sooner.

She asked them a clearly reasonable question or two: “Why… do you have to search everyone? Does this mean that our intelligence services are not too bright? How much does your presence hinder the economy of Australia? What cost benefit analysis has been done to weigh up the slowness, waste of time, and huge technology costs against the gains? Why do I have to take my computer out of its bag? Isn’t the technology good enough to see through 2mm foam?  Who will pay for my laptop if I drop it trying to juggle it and my hand luggage? Why do I have to keep going back through the gate when you can see I have metal studs on my trousers. Why don’t I just take my clothes off here? Why don’t you just pat me down like they do in Miami Vice?” (etc, etc)

In answer to that, and so confessing less than adequate patience, I would probably have said: “Look love, go back through that door, turn right and you’ll find an autoteller. Out through the main entrance you’ll find a cab rank. Any of those cab drivers will be only too happy to take you anywhere you want to go in Australia.

“If you’ve got the cash, honey, they’ve got the time.”

I am I much too old for the average Oz cabby

I am I much too old for the average Oz cabby. In Indonesia and Malyasia they are called pesantrens and as the ABC reported recently there are 900 members of Jemah Islamiah in Indonesia. What they failed to mention was that Indonesia's population in 260 million, so if I was in JI, I would review my marketing strategy. It's that lack of an overall picture and sterotyping that keeps you home huddled under your duvet.

Not everyone is out to kill you.

Below are not my words but an American responding to an article by George Monbiot on ZNet re deaths from MVA's globally.  I think they sum up my case neatly.

It would be nice to have rational governments that actually wanted to protect their citizens from death and injury based on a more scientific approach to risk management which would require resources to be prioritized to address the greatest and most probable threats first.

At present, about 50,000 Americans die on the road each year while an average of about 500 die from acts of terrorism on U.S. soil– about the same number that die from being struck by lightning.

Supposedly, to prevent these 500 Americans from dying in the U.S. each year, our government is happy to send another 1,000 Americans (soldiers) to their deaths in Iraq, an illegal war started by the U.S. that claims the lives of about 200,000 Iraqis each year.

So, let’s hope the U.S. government never realizes that traffic fatalities pose a problem a hundred-fold larger than terrorism. They’d probably find a way to address this problem proportionally, by sacrificing 100,000 troops and 20 million foreigners each year– just to keep us safe.

Compromises?

Interesting list you reference there, Ian MacDougall.  It's titled "Significant Terrorist Incidents, 1961-2003", the operational word apparently being "significant", since the vast majority of politically inspired killings by dissident groups during this period aren't listed.

What was the criterion that the US Dept of State used to decide which "incidents" were "significant"?  Screening through them one by one, it's clear that any "incident" which involved only Buddhist rice farmers and their livestock was automatically omitted, while any that involved one or more Americans or Israelis was automatically in. 

But there's a few on the list that can't be classified so neatly. After trying a few more or less obvious possibilities, I came to the conclusion that I was trying too hard. There's no official criterion involved. The junior clerk assigned to the task simply went through the back files of his local home-town paper and wrote down the ones that happened to make it onto its pages.

John Atkinson: The State

John Atkinson: The State Department list comes readily to the googler's hand, and if you know of a more detailed one, I would be glad to learn of it. Moreover, if the State Dept list was only of Americans, you would perhaps have a point. But there are many nationalities among both the victims and the perpetrators. A noticeable inclusion for example is two or three incidents where those attacked (by Islamists) were Hindus. Sikhs have also figured in incidents in India. However, I think that Americans are the most numerous victims because they are the favoured targets of the best organised and equipped terrorists around.

State terrorism is not mentioned; understandably, as much of it has been at the instigation of the State Department. The 25 years of terror perpetrated by the Indonesian state on the East Timorese is but one example.

Try as I might, I cannot think of a single example where a Buddhist has been a perpetrator of terror, or a victim of the isolated terrorist. Plenty of Tibetan Buddhists have been killed and tortured by their imperial Chinese overlords, of course. But that is another example of state terror.

You say "the vast majority of politically inspired killings by dissident groups during this period aren't listed." I would really like to learn more of this. Perhaps you could assist.

And perhaps you are right as well. Perhaps the State Department ignores many people who are legitimate victims of terrorist attacks, (where the latter are defined as deliberate attacks upon civilians). In that case, provide us with the more impartial and more detailed source, and I for one will happily use that in future.

Oh for the days

Oh, for the days when a "bot" was just someone (probably who hadn't had a bath for a couple of days) who wanted to cold bite you for a few cents to then go and get a flagon of plonk, or was just trying to bum a couple of smokes off yourself.

Botting a smoke...

... probably nowadays involves a bloke in a bunker with his finger on a button.

Hey, Paul, how will you feel if Carlyle buys the ASC?  They were in the running for the UK Trident  dockyard (with BAE that KBR just sold.  Perhaps then we might end up living next to a Talon factory?
If so, I wouldn't be asking anyone for a light on Gibson St.

 

 

A Word From Our Sponsor's Sponsor

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The system can quickly search available databases on undesirables for a match.  It then delivers an encrypted secure boarding card to the targeted passenger, without alerting them or the check-in staff.  The relevant Law Enforcement Agency officer is alerted and can take appropriate action to apprehend or detain the targeted passenger.

The system alerts airport staff to potentially disruptive or dangerous passengers at the check-in desk.  From the information flashed on the computer screen the airline candecide whether securty should be called immediately or whether the passenger should be tracked.

You can buy this handy-dandy gizmo, and a host of other post-S11 trinkets from Qinetiq, the part of the UK Ministry of Defence Research and Development arm that was privatised and floated by Carlyle.  Remember them?  Here's Jack Robertson's 2004 Webdiary piece on them to refresh your memory

Qinetiq also dabble in scramjets and war-bots, and I'll bet will be the first to put the two together.   Cadres of remote controlled robotic stormtroopers zipping round the world at Mach 8.. now we're talking "proper" Star Wars,

Hell's bells, even the likes of the families Bush and Bin Laden need a chance to make a quite quid on the side, don't they?


That's just what the 9/11 victims' families probably think, too.

Melody Kemp: "In an alarming show of national irrationality, it seems that traveling Australia has bought the whole fear package, lock stock and three smoking jet engines."

It's an interesting paradox, isn't it? Imagine that Melody's argument was the expressed opinion of an Australian director of homeland security, or perhaps the head of the Commonwealth Police or ASIO.

And then the Prime Minister of the day, either Conservative or Labor, agreed publicly with it. And security at airports was relaxed.

Then a plane full of innocent passengers was hijacked, as surely as one day one will be.

You can just see a smarty like Melody then saying: "Oh, that's okay. It was a long shot, anyway, and I guess their number was up and it's not the Minister's fault and it wasn't really worth taking precautions"

"No more than it was anyone's fault that ASIO and the Commonwealth Government didn't properly warn Australians travelling to Bali about the risk of the bombings there."

That's just what the 9/11 victims' families probably think, too.

You can just see that happening, can't you?

Full Of S...

CP, your whatif's are as unedifying as the "ask yourself a question and answer it to prove that your smart" so beloved of the politicians.

If you want a perfectly safe world then you can find it in a museum where you will be stuffed and mounted or in a box six feet under.

To be alive is to face risk, adversity and death, ask the Iraqis who are the beneficiaries of so much COW largesse. As Melody has pointed out and have many others, more people die monthly in car accidents in the US than died in the 9/11 tragedy. Americans kill one another at an alarming rate with casualty numbers that match the outcomes of civil wars elsewhere.

The moronic, slavish, knee-jerk response to what happened in New York has nothing, I repeat, nothing to do with a "war on terrorism", that sly mantra of of the war-mongers.

The "war on terrorism" is the greatest money making exercise that we have seen since WWII. The economies of the Western world are booming because of the hundreds of billions of dollars that have been poured into armaments and the development of new ways to kill each other.

If you think that the stupidty that passes for security here and elsewhere is of benefit then you are part of problem, my friend.

And now, a word from our sponsor..

"Our main enemy is al Qaeda and its affiliates. Their allies choose their victims indiscriminately. They murder the innocent to advance a focused and clear ideology. They seek to establish a radical Islamic caliphate, so they can impose a brutal new order on unwilling people, much as Nazis and communists sought to do in the last century. This enemy will accept no compromise with the civilized world. Here is what the al Qaeda charter says about those who oppose their plans: 'We will not meet them halfway, and there will be no room for dialogue with them.' These enemies have embraced a cult of death. They are determined to bring days of even greater destruction on our people. They seek the world's most dangerous weapons. Against this kind of enemy, there is only one effective response: We must go on the offense, stay on the offense, and take the fight to them."

-George W. Bush, May 1 2007 

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