Daily Archives: March 13, 2008

Today’s Column – Big Brother

The Iowa Supreme Court heard arguments this week in a lawsuit over so-called red-light cameras. They’re high-tech devices set up to catch speeders, red-light runners and other driving miscreants. A couple of Iowa cities, Davenport and Clive, set up cameras after they figured out how easy it is to pickpocket residents by remote control.

Some poor guy in Davenport got caught speeding by a camera and sued the city, arguing that cops have no right to fine car owners who may or may not be driving their speeding cars. The cameras, you see, catch license plate numbers but not faces or DNA, so civil infractiona are slapped on the vehicle own ers whether they’re driving or not.

Modern technology has limits, folks.

Cedar Rapids, I’m told, has never seriously considered installing its own cameras. But if the Supreme Court gives the green light, I suspect a lot of cities will move to jump on the gravy train. Pictures can be worth thousands of bucks.

The city of Davenport told the court that the cameras are a valuable tool in keeping the roads safer. On the other side, the ACLU of Iowa is sticking up for the accused speeder, calling the cameras an “Orwellian” unconstitutional cash grab.

I’m in their corner, but unfortunately, I think the speeder and his ACLU friends are too late. We’re already being tracked and stalked like so many fugitives or banded animals.

I go to popular Web sites and immediately get asked if I’m paying too much for car insurance in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, or do I need help finding hot singles or used cars or real estate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa? I didn’t tell them where I am. They just know.

I exchange e-mail with my wife about a loosened lug-nuts issue I had on my way to work, and we’re both bombarded with auto parts ads.
Google scanned the e-mail text to find out what I might be hankering to buy. The New York Times reported this week that Web companies are getting more info on us and our habits than ever before.

Being left alone and minding our own business, once pillars of what made America so much better than those police states, are out of fashion.

Being safe at all times and making money at all times have rendered privacy moot.You say there’s a difference between what private companies do and what the government does. Not really, especially when the government takes away privacy to boost its revenues.

But I, for one, am jumping on the bandwagon.

If we’re all going to say “cheese” to government cameras, why stop at the highway?

Restaurant cameras could tip off health authorities on which obese people still insist on eating tenderloins. Bar cams could help the police cuff and stuff drunk drivers before they even leave the bar stool.

And if anti-smoking crusaders get their way, we can have puffer cams to finger smokers huddled in illegal haze. Sidewalk cameras would catch spitters and jaywalkers and litterbugs.

I’d also really like to see politicians wearing cameras so we can see how hard they’re working and not just schmoozing with fat cats.

But let’s not get crazy. There’s no money in that.



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Senate rejects gutted smoking ban

O. Kay Henderson at Radio Iowa has the story:

“Only 23 senators voted in favor of the House plan on a statewide smoking ban, while 37 27 rejected it. Key legislators from both the House and Senate predict a smoking ban will clear the legislature this year, one that will ban smoking in bars and restaurants but would allow it in casinos.”

There’s one thing you can rely on at the Statehouse. The casinos always get what they want.

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Another Sick Child Day

Home with Ella, so not much to report today.

Noggin on the TV, per Ella’s feverish instructions, and the fading Hawks on the radio, because I’m a glutton for punishment. The way it’s going, this is the last time I’ll hear the golden tones of Gary Dolphin’s voice until September.

Get away from the computer. Go outside. Ella’s orders. You must obey.

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