Let Us Not Forget, China is Still a Dictatorship

…and a pretty darn spooky one at times.

Cameron brings my attention to warnings going up in areas of Beijing now under camera surveilance (all helpfully monitored by computers that flag certain types of behaviour):

Beijing couples who steal a kiss in public are being warned they could be caught on closed-circuit television — and suspected of committing a crime.

China’s Xinhua News Agency reports “intimate acts of lovers may be initially categorized as ‘kidnapping’ or ‘robbery’ by the computers, which are programmed to be sensitive to violations of safe distances.”

Police officers monitoring the cameras will decide whether the situation really is dangerous.

I foresee a fair amount of frustration among Chinese police officers, especially if the computer alarm system isn’t fine-tuned, or the sirens put on mufflers. Something like:

It was another noisy evening at Beijing Camera Central.

HOOT! “Kidnapping!” HOOT! “Kidnapping!” shouted the computer speakers.

Sergeant Chan raced out of his office. “What is it?”

“The computer reports a kidnapping, sir!” said Corporal Tse. “Calling up the camera feed—” His shoulders slumped. “False alarm, sir. Just a couple kissing.”

“Again?” Chan kicked the floor tiles. “That’s the tenth one tonight!”

HOOT! “Kidnapping!” HOOT! “Kidnapping!” shouted the computer speakers again.

“Eleven, sir,” said Tse.

Look, if your computer monitoring equipment is so sensitive that you have to post warnings to say that public displays of affection might be initially misconstrued as the first moments of a crime, you need to fix the equipment, not put up signs!

And before we focus this rant specifically at China, let us not forget that camera monitoring is already a fact of life in London, as well as some American cities, and already the security agencies are wrestling with the fact that there are too many feeds and not enough time or manpower to monitor them. China’s innovation here is the use of computers to measure personal space. It’s only a matter of time before some wag decides this would be just what the London cameras need to do their job.

This is why we need a debate on the merits of camera surveillance, and we need it now. A computer is not a police officer, but it is a potential agent of a police state.

And Speaking of Dictatorships…

…or wannabe dictatorships, in any event. It seems that 115 politicians in the New Zealand legislative assembly have proven themselves to be the among the biggest group of crybabies on the planet.

New Zealand politicians, upset at being seen as lazy and offensive, have banned journalistic satire as well as coverage that ridicules or denigrates them, according to new rules passed on Thursday.

Members of New Zealand’s parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of the new rules. Just six members of the 121-seat parliament were opposed.

The new provision makes it a contempt of parliament if television footage is used for “satire, ridicule or denigration.” Photographers are no longer able to take still shots during sessions but television cameras can.

Oh, Mr. Speaker! Mr. Speaker! Make those comedians stop making fun of us! The voters aren’t taking us seriously.

Contempt of the legislators’ actions knows no political boundaries, as I find myself roundly in agreement with the left-leaning Stageleft and the right-leaning Ron Good (further, those two individuals lean heavily towards the anarchist side of things, and I don’t). I especially like Ron’s take on the issue:

New Zealand is a commonwealth country, just like Canada, and ideas historically often do the rounds among member countries.

Best, then, to make as much fun as we can of our Canadian politicians while we’re still allowed.

Then, when it’s not allowed:

Do it anyways.

I’ll say this to the whiny New Zealander legislators: you don’t like people laughing at you? Consider yourself lucky. There are other ways that voters can make their displeasure of you known, and these are more likely to affect your job security and pension plan.

And Now For Something Completely Different

I give you, this YouTube of a Japanese game show, submitted in the comments section of Daily Kos:

You’re right, commentator: I would pay to see the debates reformatted along those lines!

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