The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

It’d be funny if it weren’t so worrying …

Tuesday 24 July 2007 at 6:00 pm

My first reaction to the failed Glasgow terrorist attack was laughter. To borrow Dave’s inimitable characterisation: “woo! I’m a wannabe terrorist trying to blow up an airport, but the best I can do is drive into a bollard! so I’m going to run out of the car and try to punch up the police!”

Obviously, those blokes and their collaborators are dangerous and should be charged and imprisoned — but someone should tell the Federal Police that that doesn’t imply a need to lock up every Australian with contacts in Scotland. Despite their $1.2 billion budget, they seem to have trouble comprehending the idea of concrete evidence: there’s this guy who responded when someone asked for his old SIM card! he may have even photographed a significant building! and he’s got brown skin!

You know, I’ve often heard it said that the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a potential terrorist target (hrm, maybe the people claiming that think the September 11 attackers chose the Pentagon at random?). It so happens that I have lots of photos of said bridge! I can cite things like how the stone pillars on each corner are decorative, not structural! The last plane ticket I bought was one-way! And worse than a SIM card, I’ve given brown-skinned people stored-value cards for use on trains!

Should I await a call from the Murdoch press, or from the Federal Police?


So much for ‘foiling’ the terrorists

Friday 11 August 2006 at 5:31 pm

In Australia we have a fairly competent customs and quarantine regime, and so every couple of months it’s not unusual to hear of yet another drug bust at an airport or the prosecution of some silly person trying to smuggle native animals.

When airport drug busts are announced, people acknowledge it as good police work, maybe even with a bit of nationalistic pride. They do not lock themselves in their homes, screaming “oh no! this is a sign that the streets are flush with drugs!”. There are no calls for massive increases in funding for drug detection at airports (because clearly, catching one smuggler means all the others are getting through). Nobody tries to ban plastic bags (or condoms) on planes for fear of the horror they could unleash upon addicts.

Compare this to the current panic over a foiled terrorist attack at Heathrow Airport.

This news is a nice confirmation that despite their flaws, the Metropolitan Police are still one of the best police forces in the world.

It is not a good reason to go cancelling flights, panic selling airline shares, or making long-haul flights unbearable by banning iPods.

Nor is it reason for crazy hype. Had the attacks gone ahead, it wouldn’t have been “mass murder on an unimaginable scale”, contrary to the assistant commissioner. A dozen destroyed planes = about 5000 people = roughly the number of people who die in London every month.

It never ceases to amaze me how common sense is in such short supply when it’s most needed.

(This post inspired by zeFrank, via Ponderance.)

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Some Timor links, take two

Saturday 27 May 2006 at 6:29 pm

While I procrastinate, here’s an extra post on Timor-Leste. Even more bloggers are discussing the need to help in nation-building and the power struggles that were created after 1999, so maybe a consensus is developing that the root of the problem is poor handling of just about everything since independence. One blog even ponders whether the Timorese would have been better off sticking with the Indonesians, though I think the answer is ‘no’.

There’s also quite a bit of flak being thrown at the UN, particularly from over America way, because of their involvement in getting several Timorese police officers killed (see yesterday’s rather gruesome West Australian cover). Although I’m generally a UN supporter, the last person I spoke to who’d been to Dili did agree that the UN didn’t seem to be achieving much.

Over in Kiwi-land, debate centres on just what their troops are doing in Timor. My guess is the Clark government wanted to answer the Timorese call for help, which went out to Australia and NZ because we’re the local ‘Westerners’, as it were. By contrast, check out this view from the Philippines which reckons that country isn’t taking enough interest in the situation.

Also, more blogging from the streets of Dili can be found at Tumbleweed, Lookingglass View, and Dili-Dallying.


The Timor story continues

Friday 26 May 2006 at 9:45 pm

Remaining actively seized of the matter, as the Security Council would say, some interesting info is popping up around the Web on the question of Timor-Leste. As always, the wiki is doing a superb job keeping track of things, while the BBC notes that most Australian papers are in favour of the troop deployment, and New Zealand joined in and sent some troops today.

There is some discussion emerging over just how things came to be this way, and it seems that I’m not the only one concerned about the lack of stable development in Timor-Leste. Some say the problem is too much intervention, while others suggest we aren’t doing enough for ‘soft’ issues like poverty and justice.

Political weakness and inexperience have also been mentioned, with several folks wondering if it was wise to have left freedom-fighters running a country. Meanwhile, a few more radical perspectives are also popping up, perhaps because of the socialist connections of PM Alkatiri.

Most interesting of all, though, is the word on the ground from Dili itself (though there is little other news from sources within Timor).

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Troops in East Timor, again

Wednesday 24 May 2006 at 9:18 pm

It’s starting to be broadly reported that the government of Timor-Leste (or East Timor to our Anglicising media) has requested military and police assistance from Australia and New Zealand, the old colonial power Portugal, and interestingly, Malaysia.

About six years ago, as the original INTERFET military force started to wind up, I remember thinking with some optimism that there’d be a new beginning in Timor-Leste, one founded on peace and a real commitment to deal with the country’s insane level of poverty. The Timorese leadership certainly seemed willing to do what was needed for a sustainable future.

Fast-forward to today, and the current civil unrest strikes me as a sign of a horribly fractured and unstable government, not one that is working with the people to build a nation. Listening to Jose Ramos-Horta on the 7.30 Report, there are promising signs that the rebels involved are willing to seek a peaceful political settlement, so things mightn’t be as bad as they seem to be. But if that’s the case, why call for so many police (and troops!) from four countries?

I fear that Timor-Leste will suffer the same fate as so many of the countries to our immediate north — government that is too weak and mired in its own petty issues to deal with the real social problems faced by the country. I hope very much that I’m wrong in this assessment …

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