The Drones – Part Three – The Right To Menace

I am good at menacing. I do it every time I can find an innocent person who is in no position to defend themselves. There are plenty of these about – they work in retail shops. If I have five cents in my pocket I can go and browbeat them, traduce them, and terrify them with threats of exposure on Travelguide, YouTube, and Choice magazine. Or I can buy five cents worth of sweets and bugger off.

Some days it is a close run decision.

The drone menace, on the other hand, is less clear-cut. It would appear to have several aspects:

a. The drones may fall upon people and injure them. Quite apart from the physical weight of the things – which can be considerable if they are larger commercial jobs – they have anything up to eight flailing propellers working at high speed like knives in an abattoir. It’s not just the dropping on people that is dangerous – swishing through the crowd sideways may be horrifyingly worse.

If this is an inadvertent thing – failure of control or bad flying – it is one thing, but what it if were deliberate? We’ve seen people drive into crowds with murder in their hearts before.

b. The drones may be modified to carry destructive payloads. They need not drop themselves into a crowd if they can be rigged to drop something else. You can make up your own list of frightfulness that might be precipitated on others.*

c. The drones may interfere with other aircraft in the air…or even on the ground if they are operated within airports. We’re told that there are automatic controls that prohibit this in signals sent by the manufacturers via internet to the drones. From China. Now there’s foolproof, if ever I’ve heard it.

d. The drones may interfere with essential public services like firefighting by flying where aerial tankers are in operation. This has apparently happened.

e. The drones may intrude into secret governmental and military areas. Again we are told that there are controls in place to stop this…here I am inclined to have more faith. I’ll bet the SAS would love to open up on a drone over Campbell Barracks, and perhaps they have already. We’ll never know.

f. Drones may be used to snoop and spy on commercial properties for commercial or governmental purposes. Someone has already suggested council surveillance of blocks in rural areas to spy on people erecting sheds without permission. It sounds just petty enough to be true.

g. Drones may be used to snoop and spy on private matters for private delectation and troublemaking. Leading to private defence and public nuisance. What price privacy and good order?

h. Drones might be used to disrupt and harass legitimate events – sporting venues, religious ceremonies, weddings, civic affairs. Political parties could be targeted by their rivals.

Some of these troubles may be fended off already by technical means. Others might be circumscribed by the law but the fact of the matter is that at the moment of the offence any obedience to law would still rest with the person running the drone…and they might be willing to do it at any risk. There are already enough people who commit offences in all other divisions of law despite clearer sanctions and a history of enforcement. The drone situation is still very much in the ” hold my beer ” stage.

*Naturally I exclude the Air Force and Army drones that drop Hellfire missiles and 30mm cannon shells on people. These are perfectly all right.

 

 

 

 

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Two Dumb And Dangerous Things I’ve Done

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Helluva topic, this. It is one that we can all approach, but I’ll bet many won’t – it would come too close to the bone for some, and raise too many internal questions for others.

It is a question that invites comparison. People who might shiver in recollection of a time they walked out along a rickety old railroad bridge probably don’t care to boast about it to Audey Murphy. It is also a question that invites braggadocio or shameful tears in some…the kind of a thing that makes for a difficult cocktail party. Like the topics of religion, politics, and sex, it is best left to the bedroom, temple, and parliament building.

It also is a bit of a frightener for someone who is just sitting there quietly thinking for themselves, because it sometimes reminds them how close they came to not sitting there at all…

You won’t be interested, but here’s my two. Modest enough, but I still sweat in remembrance.

a. Belgium – Waterloo 1995. First pucker moment was watching the British portion of the 42nd Highlanders load their blank cartridges. They poured about 10 pounds weight of Spanish black powder into a metal wheelbarrow and then stood around it dipping it out of the barrow with tablespoons and other metal implements. Some smoked. The Australian members of the group smiled blandly and ran for the exit. I prepared my statement for the coroner, in case it was needed.

Next day I marched with the troops in my kilt, formed up on the field with the square, watched the Dutchmen next door try to enter Heaven by foolish operation of muzzle-loading cannon. I was on the side of the square nearest to them and acutely aware of the fact. Heaven was full at the time and was not accepting Dutchmen.

Then we all played soldier. We were attacked by cavalry, and had French re-enactors march on us, and then repulsed them ( to be fair, I found them repulsive too…) and eventually marched in victory towards them as they fired at us…we trusted that they were going to fire blanks. The day ended with none of us dying or getting our arms or ankles broken, and then we retired to the town to seek food and beer. As we were eating Belgian hot dogs in the street in front of the town hall we watched the French artillery try to break the windows of the town hall with overcharges of their field pieces.

We realised that they were, in legal and clinical terms, insane…and that the assumption that we had made of safety from actual cannon balls or bullets on the theatrical field was complete folly. We had been in danger of death for hours.

And all for no purpose – it was merely a sham….

b. Every time I sit down to the computer keyboard with the determination to entertain I run the risk of telling more than I should. Worse – I have used it in the past to exact revenge upon people who I feel have done me wrong. In one case a blind barrage hit a magazine and everyone heard it go up.

It is not fair on the bulk of the readers to have to sit through this, and I must resolve not to do it. I guess for many authors there is a fine line between using personal experience as grist for the literary mill and using it for poison. I still need to define that line. Or find a good recipe for poison grist…

A Holiday Is Not A Vacation

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And a Vacation is not a Tour. And a Tour is not a Journey.

And a Journey is not a Holiday…

Welcome to the circle of someone-else’s-life. The glossy brochure discount special website revue of us telling you where to go for a fee, and you paying that fee. It’s Travel Time.

I expect that every reader of this weblog column has taken a trip at some stage of their life. They have set out from the place where they belong and gone to where they do not…and then reversed the process with a bag full of dirty underwear. Bus station sandwiches and airline trays are familiar fare. They have arrived at accomodation that does not match the brochure with no alternative available. They have discovered that there are extras on the bill. They are seasoned travellers, and the seasoning is either salt or ashes…

Well, take heart. It is possible to find the good and avoid the bad. You can attain peace and happiness and recruit your frazzled nerves  during a well-earned break. Here are some simple tips:

a. Make sure it is a well-earned break. If it is a holiday a week after your last holiday or if it is just another jaunt instead of doing something useful in the world, you are likely to have an underlying feeling of shame. That feeling is real and should tell you to stay at work and get something done.

b. Make sure you can afford the holiday. If you can’t, you are better off staying at the desk, counter, or plough. Debt is not a holiday.

c. Make sure you really want to see the people who live wherever you are going. If they are someone you would avoid in your home town – as being dodgy, dangerous, smelly, uninteresting, or ugly – you can be sure that they will be doubly so in their own country, and they will not have to try to conceal it  – you are going to be the stranger and you’ll have to put up with it.

d. Look at the tourist brochure and see if the sights that they are offering are something that you really care about. If not, you are sacrificing comfort, money, and tranquility for no good. If you couldn’t care less about ancient ruins at the bottom of your street, you don’t need to see them up the side of the Andes.

e. Is the destination likely to put you in danger of death? Or crippling debt? Or shame? Yes? So why are you going? You could get that in the rattier parts of your own town and be home in time to watch Australian Idol. Note: If you are going because the government is sending you to kill people than this caveat does not apply. Remember to pick up your brass.

f. Those people in the travel doco or brochure are actors. The people a metre away from the airport door are not. The former have to be attractive, interesting, polite, and welcoming. The latter – no. Expect ugly, rude, and greedy. Hell, you get that at the local IGA on Thursday Pensioner Day, so why should Middle Europe be any different. It’s the same damn people…

g. If they tell you that you need an International Drivers License it is because they wish to fleece you for petrol, insurance, repairs, and baksheesh. If they tell you that you do not need one, it is because they wish to fleece you for all the above plus a local permit to apply for a permit to apply for…

h. Militia. The common characteristics of militia in any country are that they carry firearms and that they want you to give them money. John Dillinger would have been a militiaman if he had thought of it.

i. If you go to a country where you can officially drink you will be sold expensive bad liquor. If you go to a country where they forbid drink you will be sold expensive bad liquor and then fined for buying it. If they have been drinking it themselves you may be beaten in the bargain, for the sake of God’s pleasure. Don’t expect that to make sense, but reflect that they do not sell bad liquor at Dan Murphy’s and they rarely beat the customers.

j. If you throw a cardboard box of old clothes into the back of a ute you can drive it on vacation for free. If you lift it onto the counter of an airline company you can pay a stiff price for the same old clothes’ vacation. If you take the ute rather than the Boeing, your clothes usually arrive at the same time you do.

k. Try something out this weekend. Find the smallest and hardest seat in your house, put up a partition either side so that you cannot move your arms, sit down in it, turn on your stereo set with the sound of a jet motor whining at about 95 dB, and stay there for 24 hours. Every four hours have someone bring you coffee or baby food in a tray. Allow yourself one toilet break.

At the end of this, stand in the lounge room for 45 minutes slowly shuffling forward. At the end of the 45 minutes ask your next door neighbour to sneer at you.

Welcome to London.