Police states: the new world order?

The Register reports on one of the more alarming attacks on civil liberties in the UK. Two people have been convicted for refusing to hand over encryption keys.

This highly controversial UK law went into effect in 2007 October.

Of a total of 15 notices served under this law, there were 11 cases of non-compliance, of which seven were charged, and two were convicted.

I still think that’s two too many. This law should not even be on the books. Of course, that is the UK, where they think nothing about putting up tons of CCTV cameras in public spaces as a security measure.

And my loyal readers, or even those just dropping in at random, may well be wondering “why does this crackpot even care about the UK when he obviously lives in the US?” My answer is simple: governments look to each other for ideas. The US and UK are rather closely allied today–the whole thing about dumping taxed tea into the harbor is well over two centuries old now–and the possibilities that certain US states will try to emulate the UK is horrifying.

So what is going on here in my home state of Texas? We had an attempt to pass what has been known as the “papers please” law, SB 1175, making it a crime to refuse to identify to a law enforcement official if detained. The existing laws already make it illegal to falsely identify, but do not proscribe refusing to identify at all. The Fifth Amendment implications should be obvious.

Thankfully, that attempt appears to have gone down in flames, at least for now. While I despise terrorism like any American who loves his country, it is our freedoms that make this country what it is. By passing the laws that erode what is left of our civil liberties, our Congresspeople, state legislators, and local-level representatives surrender what makes our country the great place it was. And they’re doing it while pretending to represent the best interests of those that elected them.

And I find that absolutely, positively, galactically disgusting.

Oops, wrong Sydney

The Daily Mail reports on a Dutch man and his grandson who got a most unpleasant surprise when the travel agency booked him on a flight to Sydney. The only problem was that it was Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada, instead of where they really intended to go, which would of course be Sydney, Australia. From the article:

They flew into Nova Scotia in the east of the country from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport with Air Canada on Saturday.

They even managed to board to a connecting flight to the wrong Sydney at Halifax on the east coast of Canada without realising their mistake.

Ordinarily, I’d say the first clue something is amiss would be the airline the flight is on. However, Air Canada does fly to and from both Amsterdam and Sydney, Australia. It would appear the flights out of Amsterdam may actually be operated by other airlines (Lufthansa, LH City Line, or BMI when I looked).

To be fair about it, were I not a US native and thus in relatively close proximity to Canada, I may not be completely sure just where Halifax is in relation to Australia. I’ll admit it, I failed world geography the first time I took it, and I usually at least get the continent right (and sometimes even which part of it) when given the name of a country. I don’t think Australia has a Halifax, much less a major city with that name where an airport would be located.

Anyway, after the dust settles, the travel agency is almost certainly on the hook for what can only be described as a first-class foul-up, even if the travelers were booked into coach for their voyage of error.

And they aren’t the only ones: the article mentions two prior known cases of misdirected travelers winding up in the much chillier climate of Canada as opposed to the warmth of Australia when booked on flights to Sydney.

The moral of the story: don’t trust your travel agent to be perfect. Mistakes happen. If you’re headed to Sydney, Australia, check your tickets against the actual IATA airport code for Sydney, Australia (SYD), instead of Sydney, Canada (YQY). Check the details of the trip and the duration for sanity: Houston, Texas, USA, to Sydney, Australia, should be a fairly long flight, definitely more than a little longer than a flight to New York City.

And to travel agents: remember, the only thing worse than lost luggage is lost passengers. Double-check your work. The embarassment you save may be your own.