When stupid people have power

In January (this year) a man on a Qantas flight was asked to remove his t-shirt because it bore the text:

“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

As I understand it these words somehow disturbed the flight attendants on the plane so much that the passenger should fly without the offending text. Naturally they could not just refer to their perception of his bad taste so they stated that his text unnerved the other passengers.

The whole thing gets even sillier as the text is a quote from the 1987 adventure comedy Princess Bride. The passenger did not have anything else to wear and the whole thing was dropped. He was allowed to continue on his way.

This is just a strange and stupid situation. It’s totally unbelievable. And yet it has happened before and people have been forced off planes. Or not allowed on planes because of silly texts on clothes.

In 2003, John Gilmore was wearing a pin with the words “suspected terrorist” and was asked to remove the pin. Gilmore, a rights activist and a founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, refused to remove the pin and was not allowed to continue on his flight. British Airways refused to fly him because they didn’t like his accessories. The pin was part of a campaign to protest the way in which innocent people were being profiled as terrorists.

In 2006, airport security at JFK forced Raed Jarrar to change his t-shirt because it contained the words “We will not be silent” in English and Arabic. Security said it was like “going to a bank with a T-Shirt reading ‘I am a robber.'” – Even their reasoning is faulty.

Texts on t-shirts are not the cause of concern. If fellow passengers are concerned then maybe the crew explain that their paranoia is silly and give them the option to leave. But it is much better to silence the person wearing the text. Its all very sad, and has nothing to do with security, safety or even perceptions of safety.

The problem is that stupid people have power. We cannot argue with these people because they are full of their own power and reason doesn’t work. Arguing would only aggravate the situations.

By train to Australia

I spend a lot of my time on trains between Göteborg & Stockholm. After a quick look through my scanty records I have been to Stockholm (at least) 13 times this year (by train) which makes it a distance of 12 688 km traveled over an estimated time of over 80 hours. If these trips were all put end-to-end this is approximately the distance from Göteborg to Perth, Australia.

but I could not have taken the train…

Love and hate my job

Feeling decedant tonight slouching on the sofa watching tv, celebrating the completion of the initial part of my empirical research – I have completed empirical studies of a mailing list containing over 15 000 discussion threads over an eight year period. This work has been negative, depressing and very very very boring. This part of my work I really really hate. It’s not the results but the reality of the everyday grind that I hate.

The part that I like is the recognition. I was asked to be part of examination committee which was/is a major honor. And to add a cherry to this already great place is that I get to fly to Reykjavik, Iceland in March. I will not be there for a long period but I will be in Iceland! This is so cool and I am really looking forward to the trip.

Environmentalism and Class

On the one hand environmentalism is science – irrefutable and extremely difficult to interpret socially, but it’s solutions are not. Well so I thought but my eyes were opened a bit wider after reading Monbiot’s article Flying Over the Cuckoo’s Nest on the connection between class struggle and environmentalism

If you understand and accept what climate science is saying, you need no further explanation for protests against airport expansion. But if… you refuse to accept that manmade climate change is real, you must show that the campaign to curb it is the result of an irrational impulse. The impulse they choose, because it’s an easy stereotype and it suits their prolier-than-thou posturing, is the urge to preserve the wonders of the world for the upper classes. “Cheap flights”, O’Neill claims, “has become code for lowlife scum, an issue through which you can attack the “underclass”, the working class and the nouveau riche with impunity.”(24)

The connection seems obvious, doesn’t it? More cheap flights must be of greatest benefit to the poor. A campaign against airport expansion must therefore be an attack on working-class aspirations. It might be obvious, but it’s wrong.

Working with empirical evidence Monbiot shows that the working class are not the primary users or even the intended users of cheap flights. The working class, it seems, does not fill the airlines of the world even when the tickets are priced at close to zero.

This is very interesting since confusing the science of climate change with issues of social and class justice are a wonderful way of creating counter arguments against “hard” science. If cheap air fares are not about class then the question is not about the “right to fly” but should be focused on making the travelers pay their own environmental costs.

Flying to a medieval city

One of the best things with this job are the occaissional opportunities to travel to places of interest that I may not normally have traveled to. Tomorrow I get to travel to one of those places which has been on my list of travel destinations for a long time. Tomorrow the first leg of the journey is Stockholm (lovely city but not much excitement here) but the second part is a flight to the island of Gotland and the amazing city of Visby.

Luckily I have the afternoon to explore the medieval city, I only hope that the snow lets up and maybe the sun will shine for enough time for some photography.

The real reason for the visit is a copyright and technology seminar at the Swedish National Heritage Board. So all in all a trip to look forward to: an exotic medieval city and a cultural seminar. This is my kind of trip.

Back from Marrakech

So after returning from Marrakech I have been planning to write about it. Unfortunately writing about Marrakech is not the easiest thing since it is an amazing city. It’s all exotica, shopping and sunshine.

The exotic is everywhere! The great buildings, the marketplaces (souqs), the large squares, the call to prayers, the clothes, the carpets, the customs, the food and more…

The shopping was amazing. Unfortunately the merchants there are the most amazing bargainers – they could sell ice in Greenland! Every purchase made was coupled together with buyer’s remorse. When you bargain the end price to a third of the starting price – what was the real price of anything? Despite this nagging concern we ended up buying plenty of interior decorating stuff.

The sunshine! The all time high this week was 52 degrees! This was made bearable by air-conditioning and the pool. Actually the heat was not all that bad but the pool and air-conditioning did make the stay very nice.

I suppose this is a very crappy description of Marrakech but there are better ones online. I will let my pictures give you a glimpse of what I experienced.

Are we secure yet?

Thankfully the term “war on terrorism” seems to have fallen out of fashion. Unfortunately the threat of terrorism is being used to systematically and creatively remove civil liberties. At some point a society must ask itself if the security needed to prevent terrorism is in itself an act of terrorism and repression.

Unfortunately all the silliness is not confined to high government (even though a lot of the silliness originates from there). In times of tension the wacko’s, weirdo’s and sociopaths step forward and fill the lower levels of the security system. These are the working stiffs in the security system. Heady with power and filled with self importance they are responsible for degrading ordinary people all in the name of terrorism and security. In reality it’s all for their own little ego’s.

You think I may be exaggerating?  Then give me some better explanations for these:

A man trying to fly British Airways to Dusseldorf was told that he could not board the plane wearing the t-shirt he had on. The offending t-shirt had a picture of Megatron (a 40 foot tall cartoon robot with a gun as an arm).

In Canada (Kelowna Airport, British Columbia) a PhD student was not allowed to board the plane because she wore a necklace with a pendant in the shape of a gun (a silver classic Colt45, under two inches in length with no moving parts) story and photo here.

A classic example of misguided airport security in relation to clothes is Raed Jarrar’s experience at JFK where he was forced to take off a shirt with Arabic writing on it or miss his flight; new BBC article. The story upset many people but inspired some: You can now buy t-shirts from Casual Disobedience with text “I am not a terrorist” in Arabic. I bought one and it is among my favorites.

Another classic is when John Gilmore was refused carriage by British Airways recently for declining to take off a button that read “Suspected Terrorist”.

These are only examples relating to clothes or jewelry in relation to airport security – there are plenty of stories of offending clothing (political, not sexual) that have got people detained or arrested. I think I need to develop this into a full length article…


It was bound to happen sooner or later but this realization does not make the fact easier that I am traveling away from the power cable to my laptop. After so many trips where I have always been so careful to remember to pack it, I really feel stupid having forgotten it. Very, very annoying!