Here are some items which appear to have escaped attention of the popular press.
First, remember all the hoo-hah about cameras at intersections catching red-light runners? There was some considerable outcry that having cameras which could take photos of EVERY license plate of EVERY car and keep a database of where ANY driver was at ANY point during the day or night might not be such a good idea.
The State of Virginia decided to outlaw them. The Peoples' Republic of the District of Columbia, of course, has them everywhere.
The people of the Great State of California are going to be treated to a new and improved version of the red-light-running-camera: It is called the Skyseer and is going to be deployed by the LA County Sheriff's office to catch bad guys.
The Skyseer is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which, according to the BBC, "can fly at any height. At 250 feet above the ground, it can clear a 25-story building and is almost invisible."
It has a camera on board which feeds video to someone sitting in front of a monitor who can "then see, in real time, what [the UAV] is seeing,
Of course the cops are saying it would be used for things like, "when children go missing down a hillside in difficult terrain," and to "get an aerial view of a building where someone is believed to have broken in through the roof," which, in LA County, probably happens much more often than it does in, say, your neighborhood.
This idea is disturbing. I know that quantitatively it is no different than two deputies cruising around in a squad car equipped with a video camera, but it still creeps me out.
The guy in charge of evaluating this activity made me feel much better when we was quoted saying, "you have nothing to fear from your own government - you are being watched by your fellow citizens."
Yeah, right. I've got three words for him: N. S. A.
Remember the case of Wen Ho Lee, the scientist at Los Alamos who was accused of, arrested for and later found innocent on charges of having stolen secrets from the New Mexico super-secret facility?
He was awarded $1.65 million from the Federal government and five media companies for having divulged and published private information about him.
Ok. The media covered that part largely because five of their number had to pony up to keep reporters out of jail.
Wen Ho Lee was arrested and kept in solitary confinement for months while false information about him having failed a polygraph, his travel plans, and other items was leaked. What has largely been ignored is the suspicion that the person who did the leaking was the US Secretary of Energy.
The Secretary of Energy was Bill Richardson the current Governor of New Mexico and future Presidential candidate. The Justice Department which prosecuted (and persecuted) him was under the administration of Bill Clinton.
The Justice Department which provided actual justice is the one which is under the Administration of one George W. Bush.
A similar failing occurred to me while reading the breathless coverage of the trials of Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling of Enron fame. The misdeeds which led to Enron's collapse took place during the go-go stock market days under the Clinton Administration.
They were caught, tried and found guilty during the Bush Administration.
Finally, it is nice to know that tender sensibilities are being looked after Down Under. Local governments in the northern Australian state of Queensland have begun instituting rules requiring a separation of at least 220 yards between a cemetery and … a brothel.
According to Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale, "There's a place for brothels and a place for cemeteries and we don't believe the two mix."
On a completely different subject: Do you suppose those Unmanned Aerial Vehicles can look through windows?
On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the UAV story, the Wen Ho Lee story and an Enron Timeline. Also an excellent Mullfoto which shows my answer to border protection, and a Catchy Caption of the Day.