by Beverly Eakman
May 25, 2011
Is Resistance Really Futile?
Traveling down a street in suburban Washington, DC, at mid-day, I was surprised to find all lanes completely backed up. There was no way to turn around and use another route. An accident, I wondered? Nope. Three trucks were mounting yet another revenue camera at a relatively minor intersection that hadn’t seen an accident in decades.
Crawling bumper-to-bumper for 20 minutes on what should have been a 5-minute swing-by, I saw the SUV in front of me suddenly drop hard on its left-front. I couldn’t see the source of the problem from that angle and came close to hitting the vehicle. The driver struggled to get his car moving again, finally managing to back up enough to make another “go” of it. That’s when I saw the huge pothole into which the vehicle had fallen, no doubt because the driver’s eyes were on the creeping van in front, which masked the pothole, and the goings-on above his head, at the traffic light.
That wasn’t the only pothole. Hundreds of smaller and larger ones, plus thousands of bone-jarring rough spots in need of repaving, had dotted roadways for months, still unattended.
It’s not enough that everyone has to suffer hard-to-gauge, variable-height nuisance (a.k.a. “speed”) bumps everywhere that cost taxpayers between $1,200 and $2,000 a pop. Or that 25 and 30 mile-per-hour limits are posted in places where they are definitely not appropriate, usually in locations that have 45- and even 50-mph postings and require drivers to suddenly slam on brakes to avoid cameras just out of sight, around a bend. Now, citizens also have to pay for surveillance-and-revenue cameras that actually make commutes more dangerous—no doubt giving great glee to those enviro-nuts who would discourage all driving—while at the same time generating money for the county and state.
Don’t believe it? Then, ask yourself this: Does government use the dough it collects through fines to fill potholes?
I recently did some checking into how, exactly, these revenue-cum-surveillance cameras—the ones above the stoplights—arrive to communities when residents don’t want them.
One of two things happen: A company approaches state or county officials with an offer to bear the entire cost of installing so-called “traffic” cameras on “x” number of streets in return for approximately one-half of the revenues generated from fines.
Another scenario is that officials from the county or state solicit competitive bids for installing revenue cameras, hoping for the best deal. The winner will be the company submitting a proposal that would jam up roads for the least amount of time, put in cameras more cheaply (configured, of course, to serve multiple purposes) and request a lesser “cut” of the resulting revenues. Officials may then sanction some tricks of their own for higher yields, such as shortening the per-second time-length of amber-yellow lights so that as many people as possible get caught “running” a red light or are stuck in an intersection, making fines more likely. Somehow, the question of “entrapment” has failed as a legal restraint. Never mind that many more drivers will slam on the brakes in surprise, rear-end other vehicles (at great personal expense), and even have heart attacks. Driver safety is the last thing on the government’s mind.
I couldn’t help speculating: How would our grandparents have responded to this overreach by government elites? How would Grandpa have dealt with officials who rig the game—essentially stealing money from every family? My answer came fast: An 89-year old relative in Texas said that his generation “would probably have used the cameras for target practice,” and then “lynched the officials who put them there without residents’ say-so.”
No wonder government is hot to disarm the public! And as for lynching public officials, or even just running them out of town, today such actions would see the entire Department of Homeland Security raising the terror-alert to red and sending in the National Guard.
Laugh if you like, but keep in mind we are talking about a complete reversal of the American self-determination/less-government ideal within a space of 50 years—not even a person’s expected lifespan. Such feats are not natural phenomena. They must be engineered, propagandized to death, inculcated from the earliest years in school, film and parenting magazines.
This turnabout of the public psyche has come at a price: Everywhere you go these days, people are cynical and angry—sometimes seemingly for no reason. But when lashing out reaches epidemic proportions, there’s always a reason. In this case, it’s helplessness—the feeling that (to quote the iconic sci-fi series Star Trek) “Resistance Is Futile.”
Today’s TV crime dramas use the term “traffic cam” as a synonym for “surveillance camera.” Even the most liberal script writer is under no illusion about road cameras being for anybody’s safety. Most viewers are too distracted to notice, lured by “gee-whiz” holographs, wall-sized touch-screens and other special effects used to “catch the bad guys.” But in the real world, just how many really dangerous drivers—the ones weaving in and out of traffic, tailgating, honking at drivers to get out of the way, driving in two lanes at once, make hairpin left-turns in front of oncoming traffic—ever get ticketed under “Aggressive Driver Imaging”? I could find no statistics whatever…
Yes, our society is overregulated and exhausted, too tired to even think about fighting city hall every time an unjustified ticket lands in the mailbox with some maddening, Marxist-like letterhead, such as “Safe Speed Division” on it. But the bottom line is that government will keep on upping the ante until we make it clear we’ve had enough.
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What if every camera had a flag waving from it, with the words: NOW PLUG THE POTHOLES! Road bumps could have similar flags placed beside them. Nothing is defaced or vandalized. And by the way, the term “public property” means it belongs to the citizens; so if it’s really state property or county property, officials need to quit calling it “public.” Right?
We need to remind our weak-willed, dispirited neighbors and colleagues what it once meant to be “Americans,” in the spirit of the Founding Fathers.
© 2011 Beverly Eakman - All Rights Reserved
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Beverly K. Eakman began her career as a teacher in 1968. She left to become a scientific writer for a NASA contractor. She went on to serve as a former speechwriter for the Voice of America and for the late Chief Justice Warren E. Burger when he chaired the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. She was an editor and writer for the U.S. Dept. of Justice before retiring from federal government. She is now author of six books covering education policy, mental-health issues, data-trafficking and political strategy with dozens of keynote speeches, feature articles and op-eds to her credit. Her most recent works include A Common Sense Platform for the 21st Century and the 2011 Edition of her ever-popular seminar manual, How To Counter Group Manipulation Tactics (Midnight Whistler Publishers, 2010 and 2011, respectively).
Eakman can be reached through her