Thursday, January 27, 2011

It Isn't Just for Football Any More

There you are, minding your own business, sitting on the porch in Ogden, Utah.  You're humming the official state song ("Utah, This Is My Place"), thinking about how last week you caught yourself the official state fish (Bonneville Cutthroat Trout) and had a fine dinner, and working out plans to attend the official state folk dance (square dance) with your sweetie.  You're minding your own business, enjoying the aroma wafting your way from the flower pot of sego lilies (they're the official state flower) mixed with just a touch of the oil from cleaning your Browning M1911 (soon to be the official state firearm).
Busy you are being a model (one might say "official") citizen of the Beehive State.  So busy that you really don't notice that the cops are watching you from 400 feet in the air.  Not from a nearby tower, not from an Ogden PD helicopter.  No siree.
This is Ogden.  They're using the (as yet unnamed, but they're looking at something cute and "catchy" like "U-V-A" [I was thinking maybe "We're Watching," but what do I know]) spy blimp.

Keith McCord in the Deseret News describes the thing (pictured above, photo from which you should go to just to watch the video on the home page).
The blimp will be filled with helium. It's 52 feet long and 4 feet wide. It's fast and can turn on a dime. The two cameras on board can send video real time to officers on the ground. 
Hyperblimp's website is enthusiastic.
The Hyperblimp is a streamlined, helium-filled, patented airship that slips through the air rather than pushing it aside. It is propelled by a central axis rear propeller, capable of moving in any direction. These airborne vehicles are whisper quiet, yield zero pollution, and are efficient enough to run on sunlight alone; they are as maneuverable as a hummingbird, yet incredibly smooth in flight. They require low maintenance, relatively low initial cost, and are capable of vertical take-offs and landings.
Goodyear, eat your heart out.
Really, I want one.  My birthday's coming in a couple of months.
But I'm not so happy with the police.  
You know, we live in a surveillance society.  More and more what we do, where we go, what we buy, who we see and talk to, what we look (or feel) like under our skivvies is recorded or monitored.  When the local PD doesn't do it, the highway patrol does, or TSA, or WalMart or Verizon or Google or your local supermarket.  Privacy, you remember privacy?  Maybe you don't care.  Maybe you leave the curtains open all the time and wander about naked just 'cause.  Maybe you're happy with everyone knowing all those icky little details.
Or maybe you think it's nobody else's business to watch you going in the door at the oncologist's office.  Or your sex therapist's.  If the business next door keeps a camera focused on the street, it might catch you entering and there's not much you can do except grumble and maybe wear a disguise.
But the government is supposed to be different.  You know, that Fourth Amendment thingie.
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 no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Of course, the cops (and the Supreme Court, I should add) have a far narrower view of what "unreasonable searches and seizures" are.  From the point of view of the police, it's "unreasonable" only if they don't want to do it.  The courts think it's unreasonable only if they're horrified.  (Yes, I'm overstating it a bit.)
Me, I think a silent spy 400 feet overhead with high definition cameras looking into my windows or back yard and watching me chatting with my neighbors or friends on the street, and going to the doctor or the supermarket, and yes, cleaning my official state gun, I think all that's unreasonable.
Which is maybe part of why I'm not a cop and they don't really want me to be a judge.

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