In which our intrepid hero finds gold hidden amongst unread email.

Whenever I travel, my email gets out of control. It’s a fact of life. When I finally get back home, I have to wrestle the problem into submission, and for reasons completely unknown to me, I’m only really satisfied when the number of unread emails falls below 700.

Around 350 will be from the Unknown Armies Mailing List (which often require deep consideration) and another 250 will be chain funnies with attachments I couldn’t be bothered opening right now. The rest are usually messages from friends urging me to check out some site or another, notes I’ve emailed to myself and correspondence I haven’t decided how to answer yet.

One of these hidden gems was an email from Mim K/W, containing a link to a Brisbane Times article. But I’ll get to that shortly.

There are times when I think of Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Strangely enough, this happens a lot when I’m reading the news. The Rollins debacle is a great example.

Another is a story that broke during then-Senator Amanda Vanstone‘s term as Justice Minister. A huge drug bust took place at the container terminal at Port Botany in Sydney, resulting in what was then the largest ever heroin seizure in Australian history.

Vanstone fronted a press conference soon thereafter, citing the massive commitment of time, money and personnel that had led to the haul, the largest anti-drug operation the country had seen.

But it was all a lie.

Through sources who shall remain unnamed, I stumbled across the truth of the matter: two containers of tinned pineapple arrived in port and were left sitting on the dock overnight. Feeling a bit peckish, a security guard opened one of the containers, reasoning that one tin wouldn’t be missed. As he opened his snack, he discovered the contents weren’t sweet and yellow as hoped, but consisted of bags of white powder.

Fearing for his life, the security guard called his find in, and the spin commenced forthwith.

The truth—unpleasant as it is—is that despite the huge resources ploughed into law and order campaigns, and the civil liberties our elected officials are willing to curtail in order to look tough on crime, the system doesn’t protect us from drugs or terrorists quite as well as The Man would have you believe. Even when The Man is a woman.

Often the risks are overstated, and the threat of terror is far less than what we’re told. Most indicators of terror threat are classified, and the fact that you weren’t killed on your last flight interstate is about the only one that isn’t. Convenient, that.

Back to the Brisbane Times. A cat named Gracie Mae was almost renamed Suitcase after she flew 2000km undetected in luggage, going home with the wrong passenger at the other end.

Let’s dwell on this point. Somehow, in amongst this—

—airport security failed to notice this—

—a blunder on par with letting this guy

within metres of this guy

—during APEC 2007. Not that missing a cat in luggage is a lethal error, but it should stand out against things which are supposed to be there. Like bombs and drugs, for instance.

Thankfully, it seems, the drug runners and terrorists are either less plentiful or even less competent than those who guard us from them.