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Heading into this week, I had thought that I would be writing about my stint as a road marshal for the USA Pro Challenge bicycle race last Saturday and not about the Three Dog Night concert I attended afterwards (ever notice how everything seems to happen on the same day?). Something I saw before the concert so unsettled me, however, that it becomes the focus of today’s article.

First, however, a few images from the race:

Between laps, "Buffalo Man" and I had serious discussions about the importance of proper dreadlocks maintenance

Between laps, “Buffalo Man” and I had serious discussions about the importance of proper dreadlocks maintenance (that swath over his shoulder is homegrown dreadlocks!)

I was happy to see these little guys contained and well behaved. Loose dogs at a bike race are a recipe for disaster.

One of a marshal’s tasks is to clear a course of debris and mark road hazards. A generous child (OK, I coerced her) lent me her street chalk allowing me to mark this hole in the road. I was tempted to write “hole” above the spot but reasoned that: a) It was obviously a hole and not, say, a volcano; b) At 30+ mph, most cyclists would never have time to read it; c) No one cared if it was a hole or a hockey puck. Still, I feel sure that in 518 miles of race course, mine was the most artistically defined hole in the road and I felt very important marking it. See, mom and dad? I did use that Bachelor of Fine Arts degree

Below is thirty seconds of sound from a world class bicycle race attended by premier cyclists (including 2013 Tour de France winner, Chris Froome) followed by snippets of the concert. I’ve left out the sounds of rain, drunk race spectators, and the “ahhhhhh” heard around the world when I sipped an ice cold beer after standing in the sun all day. Towards the end of the clip, you’ll notice a fellow wearing a straw hat. I learned that the first time he saw Three Dog Night was in Las Vegas in 1972. He was in the Air Force and his wife was pregnant with their first child. Though he wasn’t in uniform, his crew cut hair screamed “military” at a time his generation was split in sentiment over the Viet Nam war. I could see his eyes drift back in time as he remembered. Everyone has a story.

Ending with the concert is a good segue into this next part, for it was while standing in line to enter the gate that we heard a strange sound above our heads. Our natural reaction, of course, was to look up and this is what we saw:

Up in the sky! It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a...............

Up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s……………

drone???????

…………..a drone???????

The object hovered over the hundreds of people below, its little rotors whirling mightily as it darted this way and that. Moments later, it veered off only to reappear minutes later. The notion that we were being observed, maybe even photographed, was unsettling to me and my gut reaction was an intense desire to shoot it down with a surface-to-air-missile. Dammit, I’d left mine at home.

There wasn’t a person around me who didn’t find this thing disturbing, but eventually the murmurs died down and as the gates opened, we set about the business of finding the best spot on the lawn.  Three Dog Night put on a wonderful concert, but a slight pall had been cast on the evening and the drone hovered in the back of my mind, no pun intended. By the next morning, I was angry enough to want answers.

My first task was to identify what I’d seen, and within a minute of doing a Google image search, I found a duplicate of what we’d seen:

I relish a good conspiracy theory, but I find it hard to believe that the same entity that owned the drone pictured above (the CIA) had any connection to the drone I saw at the concert – but who did own it? A few phone calls later and I was speaking to the Events Manager of the facility where the concert had been held. As uneasy as I’d felt at seeing the drone, the manager’s answer to my question about its ownership made me feel worse:  It wasn’t theirs. Her staff had also seen the drone and they wanted answers, themselves.

If they hadn’t sent the machine into the sky, who had?

It isn’t a lot of fun for a writer to consistently write about the same thing, especially when the subject is a “downer.” I’m highly conscious of having just written about recent revelations about surveillance in the US and its implications to dog fanciers, but seeing this drone amped up my sense of urgency. “Pay attention. This is important!”

Consider:

  • In April of 2013, CNN reported about PETA’s plan to purchase drones to watch for illegal activity among hunters. In a press release, PETA said it would “monitor those who are out in the woods with death on their minds.” It’s drone of choice? A CineStar Octocopter capable of carrying a digital single-lens reflex camera with the capability of flying for roughly five minutes.

Let’s review: PETA is fond of claiming that there’s no such thing as a responsible breeder, and that for every dog bought from a breeder, a shelter dog dies. In PETA logic, breeders (responsible or substandard, they don’t much care) are arbiters of death. If their goal is to monitor people with “death on their minds,” how long before they send drones to monitor people suspected of breeding?  Even if the FAA turns PETA down, Ingrid Newkirk has said that it won’t stop PETA’s efforts to move forward with its plans. “I think there are other ways to use drones without a permit in all probability,” she said.  “If we don’t get a permit there are several jurisdictional issues where you don’t have to involve the FAA depending on what you use.” Civilian drone applications submitted to the FAA will not be processed until 2015 in alignment with a law passed by Congress mandating the agency to open U.S. skies to unmanned drone use at that time, and by 2030, it’s estimated that there’ll be more than 30,000 drones flying in U.S. skies, many equipped with surveillance capabilities.

  • How would a group like PETA identify the people in their cross-hairs? Earlier this week, the AP reported that Facebook was ordered to release information about its customers by various governments, more than half of the orders coming from authorities in the United States.  If that doesn’t work, how about our own government as a source? A CBS4 Investigation uncovered that government agencies at all levels are selling personal information to marketing companies.If our government has it, then it’s child play for an animal rights group to get the same information, especially since those sympathetic to causes such as the HSUS’ are now working for the federal government  (see: Sarah Conant);
  • Last year, the animal rights group, SHARK, said they were using a remote controlled drone to film a live pigeon shoot when someone at a private hunting club in Philadelphia shot the device down. SHARK complained that it was the fourth time this happened;
  • Australia’s Animal Liberation has plans to operate a drone equipped with a powerful camera above free-range egg farms, sheep farms and cattle yards to gather evidence of “abuse.” There appears to be little farmers can do to avoid coming under drone surveillance since flying drones above tree height is legal. The group bought the six-bladed, helicopter-type drone for $14,000 from a commercial supplier, using public donations, and has just completed a training program. Deployment will begin next week, with several farms and businesses earmarked for surveillance. Imagine if this was directed at law abiding, ethical and caring breeders. Can you envision sneaking out of your house with an armful of puppies so they can relieve themselves, learn the feel of grass on their paws and feel the air on their faces?
  • The UK’s League Against Cruel Sports has announced that surveillance drones will be implemented to aid ground crews to monitor land previously off-limits and to protect against illegal hunting, hare coursing and badger baiting. No one I know is in favor of cruel blood sports or illegal activity involving animals, but who decides what those are? An animal rights group?  The government? You?  Your dog hating neighbor?

Who even owns the space over your head? Over a concert? Over a dog show?  Once upon a time, Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad caelum et ad inferos (“For whoever owns the soil, it is theirs up to Heaven and down to Hell” – 13th century Accursius) was the law of the land, and entry into another person’s airspace was regarded as a trespass even if the trespasser didn’t touch the surface of the earth. By Sept. 30, 2015, all that will change as drones will have to have access to U.S. airspace currently reserved for piloted aircraft. This applies to military, commercial and privately owned drones. In response, more than 30 states have passed or are now considering their own prohibitions on drones.  To which I think, “so what?”  What recourse do any of us have if a drone operated by an animal rights zealot is in the sky over our house long enough to snap a picture of our dogs or an ex-pen containing puppies? Where do we go to complain? How does that help the dog fancier facing an animal control officer on their doorstep over a trumped up complaint as a result?

There’s a part of me that wants to laugh at all this. Headlines such as:

Let’s All Watch a Drone Fall Out of the Sky and Smack a Person in the Face

 

don’t help.  But once you’ve seen a drone in the flesh……..once you’ve had one hover over your head, heard it buzz and felt its “eyes” on you as you’ve stood in line at a feel-good concert, well, it changes things. I’m not laughing. In fact, I’m furious.

How did we get here?

How did the generation that boogied, chilled and “got down” give rise to a generation that as elected officials, thinks spying on its own citizens is all right, and ratting them out is even better?

What happened to us?

In 1969, Fritz Perl was lauded for having written the Gestalt “Hippie’s prayer:” “I do my thing, and you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.”

What happened to us?

I have no answers other than to conclude that power and money corrupted us. Once some of us learned that a love of animals in the extreme could be parlayed into a political voice with power and dollar bills as perks, the ends justified the means. When it’s your cause, it’s a good cause, right? When it’s your cause,  everything you do to see it through is noble and fair and good –  right?

What if it’s not my cause?

There are certain lines that, once crossed, change things forever.  I believe that as Americans, we’re witnessing one of the greatest changes, albeit subtle, to our sense of personal security and reasonable expectation of privacy.

I’m not sure there’s any going back.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

TracyR August 28, 2013 at 11:38 am

Amen, Susi!

Unauthorized use of spy drones is a civil rights violation. It must be non-negotiable! “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…”

And….the second defends the rest! :)

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Susi August 28, 2013 at 11:53 am

TOTALLY agree, Tracy.

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judith fester August 28, 2013 at 1:43 pm

I would be scared out of my wits if I were a dog breeder in our state (Missouri) famously known as the “puppy mill state,” a misnomer given to us by HSUS.

Drones Hovering above your property, taking photographs, counting your dogs, puppies,
documenting this information to the local animal shelter, the state licensing agency.

Money can buy anything ~ most of all our privacy.

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Susi August 28, 2013 at 6:02 pm

I think all breeders, regardless of their state, should be concerned, to be honest with you, Judith.

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Chris August 28, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Missouri is already trying to fight one of the journalism drone program that was already being used without many knowing. Not a far leap at all. Scary stuff! http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/FAA-grounds-Midwest-journalism-school-drones-4754967.php

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Susi August 28, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Unreal. I’m glad my parents are alive to see what’s become of the country they worked so hard to escape to.

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TracyR August 28, 2013 at 7:38 pm

As Ted Cruz’ father says, when America falls, there is no where else to go. Next big cable series after Duck Dynasty and Doomsday Preppers? “Drone Hunters”! :)

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Susi August 29, 2013 at 10:29 am

I like it! Pitch it to a network, Tracy. Seriously.

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chienblanc4csi August 29, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Another vote, TracyR. Maybe the Duck Dynasty and Doomsday Preppers guys will fund it. If not, try the moonshine guys, we KNOW they will be behind it. With gunsights on it.

Heather August 28, 2013 at 7:50 pm

I think it’s time to get some anti-radar military surplus camo netting … Puppies may not actually *see* the sun, but they’ll get fresh air and grass and feel the warmth.

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Susi August 29, 2013 at 10:29 am

I’m not sure if you’re kidding, Heather, but I’m taking you seriously and it’s a damn good idea!

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Mike Helms - Proud to be a Breeder August 28, 2013 at 9:22 pm

Susi, I would like to say I’m surprised, but I’m not. I’m just sad. Sad that the people of this country have lost their sense of freedom and independence. Sad that people are buying into the animal rights terrorist’s propaganda. I have trouble understanding how the citizens of this country have allowed themselves to be manipulated to the point of being mindless minions incapable of seeing bilge when they are covered in it. Our founding fathers must be amazed at how stupid the masses have become. Drones are just the next step in the process of total control of the people by the political parties in this country. First it was legalized wiretaps and surveillance and now, drones and internet monitoring. Big Brother IS coming, and soon than later…..and apparently, Big Brother hates animals…….

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Susi August 29, 2013 at 10:28 am

Glad you wrote, Mike, and I sure can’t disagree with your comments. I have less trouble understanding how our citizens have allowed themselves to be manipulated, especially since it’s been done by inches. An ignorant populace as been cultivated for a long time now. We took Civics out of the schools, so half the country doesn’t know how their government is supposed to work, we have supposedly “leaders” telling the people in their districts or demographics that they can’t make it without the help of government, we fostered a sense of entitlement, percolated resentment against hard working people who made their own wealth, and manipulate elections. It’s been masterful, really, and hardly a surprise to anyone really watching. Like you, I’m sad. Really sad.

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chienblanc4csi August 29, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Civics, geography, biology and history – whatever happened to the backbone of the education system that I grew up with? We wonder how it can be so easy for HSUS to “just ask” for a warrant to seize animals and get one, without any need to provide actual evidence. This foundation was laid years ago, so that almost every single person I talk to outside the dog fancy believes that HSUS is actually a government agency – with law enforcement powers. Even some actual police agencies make this assumption, never thinking to ask for certification. Ask any one of your neighbors if they believe HSUS whenever they claim “deplorable conditions”, and I know you will get something like “the Humane Society wouldn’t make that up!” We just keep giving away our privacy through complacency, and the oft-repeated “I have nothing to hide”. Until you find that it doesn’t matter that you are obeying the law, if the government, or a faux-government group says you are up to something, you will have big trouble trying to prove a negative. The animal laws that we have today are built on the same “joke” that we have heard for years about dog trainers – “The only thing two dog trainers can agree on is that the third one is doing it wrong”. That now applies to a lot more areas than simply dog training. Go ahead and prove it.
Americans tend to have a different approach to the infinite variety of child parenting styles that they accept for animal care and training. Just bring up “Ferberizing” or “Tiger Mothering” in any group of parents, and watch the fur fly – but one thing you WON’T see is large organized groups successfully making any of these parenting styles against the law. Or setting up an inspection program for your home. Think about how we handle the necessary laws and standards for day care and elder care facilities, mental health group homes, foster homes for kids, and then throw in the possibility that pilot-less private drones could be used to look into these places! The uproar would be heard on the planet Mars! But it’s ok to do the same for any animal owner or breeder, without a warrant, without a hint of wrong doing? I am happy to share this blog, for everyone, not only animal folks.

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Susi August 29, 2013 at 3:06 pm

I appreciate the share as well as the comment, and I’m so glad you wrote because every word of what you write is true. Where we are has been in the making for the last 20 years, and because the changes happened by inches, few young people notice, let alone understand why they’re less free than their parents were at the same age. One of the more destructive mantras, I believe, was “celebrate diversity.” Rather than all being on the same page – being Americans, rewarding success and hard work, upholding the Constitution as a sacred document, we adopted a sliding scale and relativism under the guise of tolerance. As I see it, it hurt us.

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Ruth Turner August 29, 2013 at 5:15 am

I saw a drone for the first time not long ago; I was stood in my road having a conversation with a friend and it flew over head and hovered for a while. I waved and then it stayed for a bit and then flew away. It is creepy to think about it afterwards that people are watching you. I suppose not dis-similar to the neighbour peeking through the curtains or looking over you fence.

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Susi August 29, 2013 at 10:22 am

Ugh, creepy indeed, Ruth! The thing is (as I see it, anyway) is that when a neighbor is peeking through the curtains, we know it’s the neighbor spying on us. With a drone, who the heck knows who owns it or operates it? It’s stealth spying, a cowardly way to gather information on one’s own citizenry.

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CathyM August 29, 2013 at 7:05 am

Well, I think my answer is the same as Colorado’s – get a license to shoot them down…or don’t get a license and shoot them down. BUT either way, get a good rifle, if you don’t know how to shoot – take some lessons, and then with or without a license, start shooting them down.
I can’t remember where (but I think it was SHARK) when they went to court about getting their drone replaced and having the pigeon hunters pay for shooting it down were told that they invaded the air space and mistakes happen. If they didn’t want to lose their drone, don’t have it where people are shooting things out of the sky. OOPS!
I do know how you feel. We don’t have drones here in Missouri that do surveillance from the sky but instead military helicopters looking for marijuana patches in the woods. They say they mainly look in the national forests but we have had them fly over our land also. I know exactly how you feel because of these occasions when it has happened here.
Sorry you had to see this and feel the invasion. I am sure more will have this experience and feel the same way.

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Susi August 29, 2013 at 10:20 am

Ohhhhh, Cathy, I fear this is just the beginning. One way or the other, even if we are in the right, big government will find a way to prosecute until the sentiments of the country are simply too great to ignore. Put another way, things won’t change until the government is afraid of the people, not the other way around. For now, while shooting down a drone would feel good, “they’ll” get you for discharging a firearm in a neighborhood or populated area. There’ll always be some law that was broken because so many are being created every year.

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Melody K August 29, 2013 at 9:45 am

What really amazes me is that I have a friend who, when I imply drones are invading our privacy, NSA is listening in on our “private” correspondence, says, “I don’t have anything to hide and if you’re not doing anything illegal why worry?” Sometimes you can’t explain to people who think differently that privacy laws are almost impossible to recover once lost. It’s not a question of whether you are doing something illegal, it is so much more. And as a breeder, this person will be the first to complain if she is convicted of having one more dog than allowed by her township, or having dogs that are not licensed, or having that second litter when the town only allows one per year. Does privacy not mean anything any more??

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Susi August 29, 2013 at 10:17 am

Your friend reminds me of the young lady who said the same thing in another piece I wrote about the surveillance scandals. Neither of them have anything to hide – that is until a law comes along that puts them on the wrong side of it and their ignorance of the law won’t be a defense. You “get” it, Melody. Too many others (and they vote!) don’t. Some people, I guess, have to learn the hard way, but way must those of us who understood early on also suffer?

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Jennifer Smith August 29, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Have you seen the story about how much Obama loves drones from The Onion ( they drew a picture where a drone would meet the President at his window late each night.) One of The Onion’s best in my opinion. Even though I’m generally a fan of the current president, the sarcasm in that article almost rang too true.

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Susi August 29, 2013 at 7:28 pm

I’m sorry I missed it, Jennifer, and I’ll be sure to look it up. As a fan of the president, why do you feel that the sarcasm in the cartoon (or was it the whole article?) rang true?

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yahoo search April 30, 2014 at 6:52 am

Wow that was odd. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked submit my
comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing
all that over again. Anyways, just wanted to say excellent blog!

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Susi May 2, 2014 at 2:20 pm

I apologize for that – it seems to be an issue with several folks who read the article and took the time to write. It’s pretty irritating for both of us because I really wanted to see what you wrote. Grrrrr. The web master is looking into it and again, I’m very sorry this happened.

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