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This entry was posted on November 21, 2008.
Hello, I'm Mark, I own Archie McPhee and I wanted to use this blog to share some of my views and recommend books I like. If you are here just for the crazy, fun stuff you can just skip my rants. Of course, your life would be diminished because of it, it's your choice.
One issue that we're very concerned about here is privacy. We guard our customer list and your email addresses carefully, knowing that you are putting your trust in us when you order. We even sell products that could help protect your identity, like the Bizzaro Glasses and Fake Mustaches, which is clear evidence of our sincerity.
Today I've been brooding about the coming new wave of sneaky, hi-tech cameras at traffic intersections in Seattle and other big cities, and how those cameras relate so admirably to successful Sicilian Mafia methods. It all blends nicely with my Grand Ongoing Rant on the collapse of honest government, privacy rights and common sense.
In 1999, Peter Robb wrote the excellent and well researched book, Midnight In Sicily, about the origins of the Cosa Nostra and the shocking revelations of Mafia/Governmental partnerships at all levels of government in Italy.
It describes how one mob defendant in a 1947 trial for the murder of 11 people, cried out during testimony: "Bandits, police, state, they're all one body, like Father, Son and Holy Ghost!'' Before he could reveal the politicians behind the crime, he was poisoned. As so often the case, telling the truth is risky.
As you sit sipping your fair trade coffee while reading this, private companies are approaching city governments with offers they can't refuse. The deal is something like this, you give us police authority and we install cameras at key intersections to photograph cars that run stoplights, then we send a costly ticket along with a nice photo of the vehicle to the owner. BUSTED! Without any messy, direct human contact whatsoever. The private firm keeps 30% of the fine and the City gets 70%. It's along the lines of the gambling casino/state government partnerships in Las Vegas. Hey, weren't casinos originally operated by… oh, never mind.
The sneaky program costs a city nothing to install — so there is no irritating budget review or funding debate. The righteous position for all this from the municipal pashas is that it is needed for our safety, for our own good… this rings so hollow I won't waste any more words on it. This is government and private corporations working together to screw people out of what little money they have left, with sneaky spy cameras.
The public has always faced ongoing, inventive attacks of taxes, fees, fines, rules and regulations to make us poorer and fill our days with nonsense and red tape from city government — but at least we had the option from time to time to vote out the rascals. But now, the new spy programs are endorsed by Democrats and Republicans. The policy gets married with corporate expertise and effectiveness, codified into law and set in stone. We'll never end this stuff and it will only expand exponentially — it is too juicy for City Hall to say no to wheelbarrows full of cash without effort. Once city government gets that income stream of dollars, it turns into a junkie who can't quit.
Isn't it a logical extension to install cameras to monitor us while grocery shopping at PCC, to send us tickets when we buy too many high fat foods? (PCC already makes me feel guilty buying a steak — which is still a legal substance — from their tiny meat department, but that's a future rant). Don't even try to buy Ding Dongs at Safeway. How about spy cameras in our bathrooms to make sure we floss? And what if only Big Corporate Floss from Costco is permitted? What if Bacon Floss (TM) is forbidden! My God, that would be a tragedy! BTW, watch for our new "Cupcake Floss" (frosting flavor!) coming out soon, unless it gets banned for being so utterly cool.
I say it stinks. The role of government is not to annoy, monitor and bleed us dry, but to deliver and maintain appropriate, critical services with integrity, effectiveness and common sense. It is not proper or desirable to get into bed with private business to only accomplish what business always does — make money. Not that there is anything wrong with that, so long as it is done honestly and legally — let's just keep the rules of the game clear. We are more than satisfied with the current level of corruption and incompetence in local government without bringing the pros from big corporations into the game. Here in Seattle we are comfortable with the niceness of it all.
I need to go now to purposely put the wrong things into all those confusing required-by-law recycle bins, but will return later to complain about the Seattle's Brave New World of Parking Regulations, now that really stinks.