Thursday, November 18, 2010

A thought...

And yes, it's a bit snarky.  But I mean it in all seriousness.

In 2006 the left went ballistic that President Bush wanted to track phone numbers of suspected terrorists.  They said it destroyed the Fourth Amendment, and some politicians went so far as to say, "What the heck - do you think millions of Americans are members of al Qaeda?"

Flash forward four years.  If you want to fly, the TSA will scan you (and agents will be able to see completely nude images of you) OR you can submit to a pat-down that, if it occurred anywhere else, would be considered a sexual assault.  Which seems to be just a *tiny* bit more intrusive than say, phone taps overseas.  Moreover, the efficacy - and safety - of such procedures have yet been proven to be reliable.  But no one on the left is complaining about personal privacy and the Fourth Amendment now.  Why?  The arguments are exactly the same.  "What the heck - do you think millions of Americans are members of al Qaeda?"

OK, I know the argument:  Phone taps and airplanes are entirely different things.  How else can you keep airlines safe from terrorist bombs if you don't inspect closely every passenger and crew member?  I get that. But dontcha think that if we knew what the terrorists were doing by listening to their phone conversations we might stop them before they get within 100 miles of an airport anyway?  Besides, I think the terrorists have proven that once they use a tactic and we discover it, they switch to something else.  Cases in point:  Richard Reid, shoe bomber.  We have to take our shoes at the airport now.  Terrorists tried to smuggle liquid explosives in by using water bottles.  No more liquids!  Abdulmutallab tried the exploding underwear theory, and now we get nude scans.  So what will we do when the next guy hides explosives in a body cavity?  

I think it's time to try something new.  Political correctness has gotten so out of hand that we can't do those things that might actually be EFFECTIVE at stopping terrorists.  There have been some good ideas proposed by some smart folks, so I won't bother to recount all those here.  But if we *really* want to keep people safe in the air, and on trains, and in buildings we need to be smarter than the terrorists, and that's not happening right now.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Trip to Charleston

I went to a library conference last week in Charleston, South Carolina.  Never been there before.  Definitely want to go back and take the philosopher, and do nothing but walk around town admiring the architecture!  Now, I could regal you all (all two of you) with amazing conference anecdotes, and recaps of some of the amazing sessions like Scholarly Communication!  Google Books!  Bibliographic Instruction! e-Readers in the library! Database Management! Patron-Driven Acquisitions!

But I won't.

Instead I'll share with you some pictures I took during a brief walking tour.  I decided to skip out on one afternoon session, and try to see as much of the city as I could.  I wanted to walk down to the Battery.  I wanted to see some of the amazing historic churches.  I wanted to walk right up and touch some of the buildings that were standing 200 years ago.  So I did.. and this is some of what I saw:

Citadel Square Baptist Church: established 1854.  It was actually across Marion Square from the conference hotel, and we could hear it (and many others around town) toll the hours.

On the other side of the square was St. Matthew's Lutheran Church, established 1874.  You can't really tell in this photo because it was a cloudy day, but the edifice is a beautiful terra cotta color, and it had some wonderful stained glass.  It's also interesting that for all the churches, the stained glass is protected by what appears to be lexan or some other sturdy outer layer.  I suppose it makes sense.. you know, hurricanes could really do some damage.

Next was the French Huguenot Church, established 1845.  The architectural detail was stunning.

This is the First Baptist Church.  It is the oldest Baptist church in the south - the congregation was formed in 1682, and this building was constructed in 1822. 

 These are two of the Episcopal churches.  The one on the left is St. Michael's (1752), and the one on the right is St. Philip's (founded in 1680).  St. Michael's has the distinction of being one of the only churches that has not had significant changes made to its facade, so it looks today just like it looked 250 years ago.

 And then of course I headed down to the coastline.  The US Custom House and the USS Yorktown are visible from an awesome waterfront park and pier off of East Bay Street (on the Cooper River).  When I walked down to Battery Park, there was a sailing ship out in the bay.  I tried to get a decent shot, and the best one I could get also had Ft. Sumter just inside the frame on the left.  Bonus!

I still may bore you with a post about some of the conference proceedings - we had a senior Google engineer talk about the Google Books project which was Just Absolutely Amazing. I also enjoyed some delicious food at Slightly North of Broad, Chai's Lounge and Tapas, and the Swamp Fox Restaurant.  But I'll save that for later....  ::grin::