A Few Words About Flying Monkeys

droneThe recent dumping of lake-effect snow in Buffalo, upwards of 5 feet, brought with it a major dumping of media coverage as well. CNN alone dispatched at least three of its big names to take shifts standing on the same street corner where plowed piles of snow were particularly impressive. While CNN made every effort to whip up a blizzard of superlatives describing the End Of Days weather in Buffalo, people in the background went about their  business, coming and going with shopping bags, backpacks and snow shovels.

This isn’t to say CNN overplayed the event. They didn’t. Something big and unusual was happening in Buffalo and CNN covered it when other outlets didn’t. Or couldn’t.  Buffalo turned out to be a prime example of New Media 101 -an example of just how much the public’s sources of information have changed. Along with the usual iPhone videos -uploaded to youtube as they happened- something else was changing the game: A drone.

A man in South Buffalo, one of the hardest hit areas, managed to get to his garage where he launched a camera-equipped ‘drone’ -a remotely controlled flying platform that hovered over the expanse of white and showed what ground-based technology -even CNN- couldn’t show.

Drones are usually associated with remote warfare, a hands free way of killing without being killed. Drone ‘pilots’ sit in military facilities sometimes thousands of miles from the action, watching on a computer screen what the drone sends back. Military drones reduce -if not remove altogether- the human element in the taking out of an enemy. And they do it with near-surgical precision.

When I mentioned the civilian use of a drone in Buffalo to my friend Bill -who is selling his house- he told me the agent he hired had a drone. And that drone was used to shoot an arial tour of the property soon to be seen on YouTube. Our friend Robert dropped by and said that he actually had a drone he had learned to fly around the neighbourhood. I live about a block away from Robert and I began thinking of the original drones -malevolent flying monkeys from The Wizard Of Oz. I began to see a rather dark side of drones, darker even than military use or flying monkeys. I began to imagine drones, like those  monkeys, hovering silently outside the bedroom window at three in the morning.

Transport Canada isn’t exactly on top of this.  All I can find is a few less-than-stern guidelines suggesting that flying your drone over pets or near airports probably isn’t such a good idea. Transport Canada seems almost as surprised at the advent of drone technology as I am. But less concerned.

Anybody can buy and fly a drone. To get the novice started, Canada Drones (www.canadadrones.com) is the enthusiast’s one-stop-shop for QuadCopters -so called for their four cornered configuration of battery powered vertical rotors, beneath which usually hangs a high-definition camera. The whole thing is about two-feet square and looks nothing like a flying monkey. A $1,000 investment buys a semi-pro machine, but entry level droning can be had for about $300.

What about the ground level social implications? Shouldn’t we spare a thought for all the Worker’s Compensation Board private detectives that a single drone will replace? What about undercover police officers mingling among G20 protesters when a drone 50-feet overhead can get all the high-resolution close-ups needed? Who knows -maybe drones can be equipped with voice recognition software too. And debate? What about the endtess debate over street-level CCTV cameras? All is now moot. Flying monkeys have seen to that.

But there’s a positive side too, the side that will be used to sell a complacent public on the necessity of drones operated by governments and police forces at all levels. You’ll know it’s a done deal when you hear the excuse ‘It’s just another tool in our tool box. It’s all about public safety.” Then, get ready for it, ‘Drones will only be used to track down and prosecute those who fail to poop-and-scoop.’  Hence we will be soft-soaped into believing drones will only be used to promote public hygiene. Or locating lost cats. But never as an authoritarian intrusion into our ever-waning privacy.

I’m starting to think flying monkeys weren’t so malevolent after all.

Another Post from our Fearless Port Hope Correspondent

Fear Itself

 “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933.

 Rick Norlock is about to leave the building. He won’t be running in the next federal election to represent what is now Northumberland-Peterborough South. A combination of relief and nostalgia has descended upon the riding. As I sort through my stack of Rick Norlock constituency updates, I’m seized by an unexpected emptiness, a feeling that doesn’t feel right. A feeling that despite the fact that Mr. Norlock’s message was unwavering throughout his tenure, I never got the message.

How can that be? After all, unlike many of Rick Norlock’s dedicated supporters, I actually read the hundreds of lurid missives with which he blanketed the riding in his eight years as our representative in Ottawa.

Mr. Norlock is the undisputed King Of The Mail-Outs, a human Gestetner Machine dedicated to cranking out just one message: Fear.

Hence my emptiness. After all these years of being told I should be afraid -afraid of tattoo’d junkies in the basement, afraid of terrorism, Liberals, the NDP and everything else that goes bump in the night- I’m not afraid. Somehow I missed the message. Somehow even the pictures of doe-eyed waifs whose only protection from skulking internet predators was the Conservative Party’s ‘Tough On Crime’ mantra escaped me. Which is to say I’m not nearly as afraid of all the things I’m supposed to be afraid of as the Conservative Party is afraid of statistics.

Violent crime, according to what’s left of Statistics Canada, is on the decline. But Statistics Canada failed to take into account something called ‘unreported crime’ -crime that we all know is out there because the government says it’s out there and because Rick Norlock never said it wasn’t out there which, obviously, lends great credence to its existence.

Unreported crime is like the mirror image of reported crime that never happened but got reported anyway. The only difference being unreported crime doesn’t require that a crime actually took place -just the firm belief -backed by non-existent statistics- that a crime just might have taken place but that nobody paid any attention or bothered calling the police.

But, according to the Conservatives, all we need to know is that it happened. How we know it happened isn’t important.

And that’s the whole thing about fear. Fear sells better if we don’t know what we’re afraid of. Fear of fear itself. To the people of Northumberland-Quinte West, fear sold like hotcakes. We couldn’t get enough. Rick Norlock was the account exec and never a day went by when he didn’t pitch some new peril, something else to be worried about that only Rick Norlock and his blizzard of taxpayer-funded advertising could save us from.

Maybe Rick Norlock was right all along. Thinking only of myself (and no, I’m not a Conservative) I can say with certainty that I have not been the victim of a violent crime since a bully -probably a Conservative- stole my lunch money in Grade 3, a crime I am embarrassed to say went unreported. Thus, the logical extrapolation is that my life has been crime free since around the time of another Conservative, John Diefenbaker. Maybe all this Tough On Crime stuff cuts both ways. Maybe it scares the bejesus out of tattoo’d junkies at the same time it makes the rest of us feel both safe and scared.

Barack Obama got elected in his first term partly because he wrote a book called The Audacity Of Hope. Audacity? In Northumberland during Mr. Norlock’s time in office, Hope wasn’t about audacity -it was about effrontery. The Effrontery Of Hope as opposed to the Reality Of Fear.

That’s why there’s this sense of bittersweet nostalgia as the Norlock era comes to a close. We’ve become so used to cowering beneath the covers listening for the sound of a broken window or a smell of a pervert’s hot breath on our necks or the postman delivering more Norlock flyers,  that we’re going to miss the oneness of it all, a sense of community that binds us all together in the fear we’ve come to take for granted as a part of life in Northumberland.

Went to a political meeting last night

And came away very depressed. Because it was just that – a political meeting designed to show off the talents of the two people wishing to be a candidate in the next federal Election. Both people demonstrated a wealth of knowledge about the policies they expect to defend. Both showed that they will be a credible candidate and will do the party proud. But what was depressing was the realisation that this next election is going to be like no other and consequently different tactics must be considered.

One of the good things about looking at the First World War is the way we have looked at the way it was fought. “Lions led by Donkeys”. The same analogy can be applied to the way the electorate is going to be manipulated by the Media and the bags of money that will fund this next election. As an electorate we are going to be dumbed down by constant propaganda and distortions  from all sides. Not a pretty prospect but get ready.

If the opponent in this next campaign is the Prime Minister, who has changed our institutions to the extent that he could be called a Dictator (the man is a control freak, defines the message, brooks no personal opposition, reveres the military and uniformed personnel, expands the surveillance of the population and codifies extensive data gathering about the population, and that’s only a few of his odious actions). Harsh words but look at the definition of an authoritarian. This man has to go and We do not see any way under the present three party system.

For the good of democracy we cannot have the Country ruled by a man who receives less than forty percent of the votes cast. Some ways have been considered to remedy this situation when the majority is governed by the minority. Normally this would not be a problem but where you get the minority only governing for the minority then we have a huge problem. One of the ways is a recommendation for “proportional representation”. The end result and main criticism about this way of voting is that it would lead to “Coalition Government” SO WHAT, what is wrong with a Coalition? Why is it that it is only the power structure within the Political Parties that decry coalitions? Because, in the main, the Parties are deluding themselves – each one of them thinks that they will win – even when they won’t.

This next election is so important to the electorate we cannot tolerate any thing other than a Coalition. We do know this: if the election fails to produce a Party with a majority the a Coalition will be established, in one form or other. If that is the case then why do we not discuss the possibility and take it one step further and have an electoral coalition before the vote.

Again a very unconventional idea as it means that in some Ridings there would not be a Liberal candidate and in others none from the NDP. But as it would only be the Party Hacks that want to pour cold water on it, it must be considered. Call it “strategic voting”, “tactical voting” or just plain old common sense the time has come.

Now that our Dictator PM has removed public funding from the electoral process the idea that a Political Party has to get votes to receive a subsidy, removes the voting pattern used by some, “My vote for a last place party still works because it’s worth a dollar to them” – this was the only common sense reason for a person to vote for a Party that stood no chance, and is now a redundant reason. Let’s move on.

This may come as a surprise to most Party Hacks but people vote for many reasons only one of them is the alignment of personal values to party ideology, others will be: the personal appeal of the Leader, the charm of the local candidate and above all the fact that the party getting the vote gets it to stop the others getting it. This time around we have to make the values, or lack of them, of Mr Harper and where he is taking the Country the issue. That means we have to toss him and then we will sort out what to do about repealing “Harperlaw” afterwards.

So by means of this post we at the BR are challenging orthodoxy – and both the Liberals and the NDP – to take steps that will ensure that Mr Harper and his Conservative Party do not win the next election. With this as a backdrop and inserting the scenario of Mr Harper not losing power when a bit of common sense could prevail amongst mature allies and opponents, which could have him lose the next election, it looks as the black cloud will not be lifting soon – that’s very sad and depressing.

A Guest Post from our Port Hope correspondent

Death Of A Salesman 2.0

There’s an old salesman’s adage that says you can’t sell anything unless you sell yourself. Millions have taken to something called Linkedin to do just that -sell themselves.

I’ve never been a fan of Linkedin, partly because I have nothing to sell. I’m retired. I’m not looking for a job and I have no credentials to exaggerate or misrepresent. But a look at Linkedin this morning has me thinking I’m in the minority. There’s a lot of desperate people out there that will say almost anything -or worse- nothing, about their background and qualifications just to get a job.

If you don’t find this out of line you should be on Cobourg Council

coiAt a special meeting  of the outgoing Council it was supposed to be clean-up time – you know finish off the the business of the year before the the new guys come in. One of the items was the approval of the Town assuming the cost of building Home Hardware’s new driveway a.k.a Kerr St. This stub of a road is intended to allow the customers of the new store to drive safely from Division St into the new store without creating a traffic hazard at the old driveway.

Two days to go, if you count today

election snipAn interesting post on FB this morning. So where are the other 73% of eligible voters and will they vote this weekend. Unfortunately Voting Day is now a farce and for all purposes it does not exist any more. The ritual of leaving work early, going to the local polling station and putting an X on a paper ballot has been consigned to the rubbish of history.

I do not know who I will be voting for

electionBut I do know who I will not be voting for. If we hear any body else intone “wasteful spending”, “taxes are too high” (without the explanation of a solution), “I am for the people” and other useless election phrases we hear every four years from candidates without imagination or the brains to offer solutions, we will, as a commenter once put here “puke”.

First Impressions

pano2Went to an All Candidates Meeting (ACM) Thursday night and came away with the feeling that on the surface anybody on the platform could do the job of being on Council. But how does one filter out the ‘remainder’ and and leave behind the ‘winners’?

Some lighthearted pics from last night

The candidates on stage
I wonder what they are going to say about me tonight?
I wonder which of these bozos they will saddle me with?
The lonliness of the long distance runner
A slice of the audience
Guy in the red shirt - You do not want to know what I am thinking!
I really am a good listener
I have to get this - it might be an angry condo owner
The candidates' tables


A Guest Post by Anonymous

From time to time we get unsolicited work, this is one of them and it poses a very serious question to all of the Candidates in this Municipal Election. We ask that they watch and then answer the question in the last frame.

This question – “How do we clean up downtown?” was asked last night,

Another pertinent Guest Post

October 2, 2014

Dear Member of Parliament, Rick Norlock;

I stand strongly beside Canada’s robust defence of Israel. I stand as strongly behind Canada’s vocal defence of Ukraine. I also appreciate all of the assorted adjectives and adverbs used to describe the jihadi turbulence in the Middle East.

I depart from any proposal that Canada take up a combat role in that part of the world.

Caught in time travel

In the previous post Wally Keeler started a fine thread about the dust and dirt from the rehabbing of the facade of the brick building at King and Division. The comments did not appear so here is what he sent to me for publication.

The thread starts with the action from the Mayor and Wally’s letter is at the bottom of the thread.

It’s that time of the year – again!

spainWith the election campaign being played out by other people and the Burd’s itchy feet atwitchin’ we will be on vacation for a couple of weeks.

That’s a challenge to all of the readers to fill this post with comments about anything you want to say. Anybody with lots to say will get to be a guest poster. Email info@burdreport.ca and it will get put up for all to comment on.

There is a travel blog on the travel page feel free to check it out, it may not be a regular thing so don’t expect too much it will be a very hectic 17 days but it is hoped that one can get the flavour.

42 days to go before election day

indexAnd we ask if the candidates are ready. Knowing the answer we can say with authority, that most are not. You would have thought that with just over a month to go that little (big really) things would be ready. For instance, how many candidates are banging on doors with the most essential part of their kit – a pamphlet? Not many! How many candidates have their pamphlets? Not many!