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January 07, 2005


feel it slipping away ? i do.

feel it slipping away ?

Very much so.

A while back I watched the film "The Pianist," which illustrated the ease with which rights can be taken away if done carefully, bit by bit. Of course in that context there was a totalitarian government with a very determined objective to take away those rights. In our case, we're asked to understand it's for our own good...all the changes are really for our saftey.

In the end, though, what's the difference in the way you live?

actually, early parisian subway trains had multiple classes.


actually, early parisian subway trains had multiple classes

didn't know that...egalite, indeed.

Yet Edward, state and local municipalities are adding surveillance cameras by the score. To do what mostly? To record it's citizens violating traffic laws and the like so they can fine them. Yet on the other side of the coin, we're warned to be alert when using your credit card or an ATM if someone nearby has a cell phone that can record your card number or you entering your PIN.

You finish your post saying "Bit by bit, we're losing what it is we think we're fighting for."

I agree completely. We better direct our lawmakers to figure this out in a hurry. What are we talking about here - moral absolutes? Or risk assessed compromises?Line drawing these days is starting to take on a whole new meaning. From re-districting to surveillance all the way to interogation methods. If we elect problem solvers and they spend all their time attacking or defending themselves from contrarians, we're not going to catch up with the world's events, and we're sure enough going to be left behind or meet our demise. The bigger they are...

Dammit. I'm really getting tired of things being barred from us under the guise of "safety". I'm not sure if its even a guise. There are obvious dangers to everything that gets nabbed, but so what? Life is dangerous. Its not just stuff like this, which could be filed under "big picture" saftey concerns. Consider a few, smaller, less sinister examples:

In the town of Martinsville, about 15 miles south of where I live, there is a justifiably legendary hill that every kid growing up has tales of surviving on sled. It is imposing in the summertime, covered with ice and snow its downright menacing. It is, and has been for a hundred years, the wintertime centerpiece of the city's park. My nephew was up visiting over christmas, and I built up this monstrous hill in his imagination to where he could just about pee his snowsuit in anticipation of merely seeing it. The weather co-operated, giving us about a foot of snow over christmas. But, when we get to the park, large signs have been put up forbidding sledding, and police officers cruise the park to enforce it. WTF? No one has ever died on this hill. Or paralyzed even (despite what the adults tell the kids). But apparently, someone was "concerned", so my nephew and I were turned away.

Go to any waterfall at any state park in Indiana. They won't let you get within a foot ball field of it. Yes, people have at least managed to die falling from the top of a fall, but what about the base of it? What harm could possibly befall you from walking under the base of a relatively small set of falls? And even if there were, why can't I accept the risk for a moment of glory? You can literally get closer to the base of Niagra (actually walking on it over rickety wooden steps, no less!) then you can at either Cliffity or Cataract Falls, legally. But again, someone got "concerned", or more likely, afraid of being sued.

And now this. You know, I suspect that terrorists will have access to and use small, hidden spy camera technology, and probably the blueprints of facilities as well, but grandma and her digital camera is a threat that Must Be Stopped. I'm sure it would frighten us all to find out what kind of pictures are found on terrorist websites, but what's the solution? Ban cameras? Not let people take pictures at any bank, landmark, bridge, or large tree in state forests?

I hope one day, before they seal us into tupperware for our own protection, that we realize what a plastic reality we're locking ourselves into and say no to some of this nonsense.

What are we talking about here - moral absolutes? Or risk assessed compromises?

Those in power will argue risk-assessed compromises. Many of the fearful among us will support them, arguing that they'd rather feel safer than retain some silly right they might not ever chose to exercise. Of course, it's only silly if it's not your personal passion. A photographer I know makes Christmas cards out of random shots on the subways or from buses. I'd hate to have her have to give that up. Will it physically harm me? No. Will it make my world just a little more humorless...definitely.

It adds up. I already feel like an extra from "Metropolis" when I'm at the airport, moving along, brainlessly, careful not to joke or move too quickly or seem to be annoyed by the ever-increasing delays. (It's really bad in the midWest, where all the young guards take their reponsibility to "protect" us so seriously they're borderline scary themselves.)

We better direct our lawmakers to figure this out in a hurry.

I totally agree.

Eddie Spaghetti - pardon the blogwhore, but I dug up some cool subway sites one day when I was really sick of all politics all the time. You might get a kick out of the pneumatic tube subway etchings.

Excellent rant, Neolith. First rate!

On the flip side, exactly when did Vegas casinos start allowing photography? I'd guess when the wiseguys lost their battle with the corporations, but still. Freaky how many video cameras are running there now.

You might get a kick out of the pneumatic tube subway etchings.

Now that's my prefered method of daily commuting! If the subway were more like the Cyclone, I'd never complain...unless I was hungover I guess.

I don't mind the cameras in Vegas, Crionna. I assume they're in the suites as well. I believe what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, and beside, I'd be flattering myself if I thought anything I was doing was as worthy of comment as the antics of all the degenerates around me.

I hadn't thought about it the last time I was in a casino and we took a few pictures (of course, the lobbies of all the casinos are nothing if not photo-op backdrops), but you're right...no one says a thing...and you know they're watching.

The harsh reality is that we do this to ourselves. At least for certain values of "us". For every conceivable safty risk, there is someone who takes it up as a cause to get it padded in foam, or whatever. For every flashing rail road crossing sign, there is a person who rights every state and local government official, asking why, oh why isn't there an automated crossing arm guard as well.

So long as we as a population are focused on our own safety as an end to itself, we'll probably be forced to endure moronic stuff like this that amounts to power grabs for law enforcement. I was just reading something about antibotics the other day, and someone made the comment along the lines of "It will go down as a great irony, that 20th century citizens, so concerned with their health that they took antibotics at the first sniffle and cough, and pestered and harrassed their too compliant doctors until they got their precious prescriptions, were living in the Golden Age of Health. The one time in all of history where mankind stood with pandemic disease abased at his feet. And an even greater irony is that their obsession will bring that Age to and end." I don't know how true that is, but its certainly plausible, and sad, and goes nicely with the rest of our safety-centric society.

rights = writes, and various other mental lapses. Good grief. TGIF.

Edward, I meant the tourist cameras. The "eye in the sky" is everywhere to be sure, its just odd for Libby from Des Moines to be shooting digital video of me playing craps.

Neolith, I hear ya man. I'm sure that my favorite mode of travel will eventually be outlawed "for my safety". Then again, plenty of people topple into the Grand Canyon every year and you can still climb out on the ledges as far as you want, no railings or anything. I find that heartening. In 2002 I was shooting large format near the lip when a large ram snuck up behind me to eat. I remember thinking just how funny it would feel to be butted off the lip and into the canyon. Dang thing'd prolly kick my bag and tripod in after me ;)

For really stupid warning labels, check here and here. (The second site has annoying audio ads.) Unfortunately, my favorite site of this kind, which had actual scans of the labels, has closed, so you'll have to take their claims that there really was a mattress with the warning "Do Not Attempt to Swallow" on faith.

(It's really bad in the midWest, where all the young guards take their reponsibility to "protect" us so seriously they're borderline scary themselves.)

My folks and I are relatively experienced world travellers (side-effect of living in Hong Kong for 18 years). By far, hands down, no questions asked, the most intensive, intense and almost hostile security we've ever gone through was...

...Madison, WI.

Worse than JFK, worse than O'Hare, worse than Bangkok, worse than Yangon (the capital of a freakin' totalitarian state), miles worse than anywhere in Europe. About the only place I hear that's reliably worse is Israel, which says something about the insanity level.

Sorry for the threadjack, but I wanted to relate my favorite mass transit anecdote/old wives tale. It is said that when the first train was introduced to Japan, the Japanese passengers, thinking that they were entering an interior space, took their shoes off before climbing on board and were shocked when they went to disembark and found their shoes were gone.

You know, one of the ways you can tell you're in a banana-republic mess of a police state is when the police stop you taking innocent tourist pictures of stuff because they think the subject of your pictures has something to do with "national security".

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