- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 6, 2001

The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and Affiliated Computer Services Inc. (which bought out Lockheed Martin's interest in catching red-light runners and speeders) are only interested in saving the lives of the colorblind, the frustrated and the inattentive.
In the Orwellian world of the cops and private contractor, red means stop, green means go, and yellow means slam on the brakes and smile for the camera.
The powers that be have not embraced this project to make money and raise revenue. They only care about you, the harried commuter. They feel your daily pain. They do. Honest. Put it there. How do you do? Nice to meet you. Have you checked out the rent-a-pandas lately? You have a nice day, you hear, while negotiating the roadways in the City of No.
No right turn on red. No left turn at rush hour. No U-turn there. No parking here between the afternoon hours of 1 and 2, except in a leap year and when the moon is full the previous night. No this. No that. No, no, no.
Life is tricky in the fast lane, especially if all the lanes are either slow or slower and you're late for a very important meeting, the most important meeting ever, and the blue-haired lady up ahead is severely testing the last traces of your patience.
No one knows how to drive in the city, except you, of course, and maybe Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey on his best days.
Don't look now, but the light ahead is changing to yellow. You have to ask yourself: Do you feel lucky?
It is a concrete jungle out there, and the city is only doing what comes naturally, which is fleece as many as possible. The city at one time pondered the notion of instituting a commuter tax, but other than another means of generating revenue, it was hard to come up with an acceptable pretext. You don't increase a city's quality of life with a commuter tax.
The red-light cameras save lives, even if they do come with a price, and not just the obvious out-of-pocket expense. Saving lives is a growth industry in America, one of the favored ploys of groups, companies and authorities to justify their intrusive actions against the masses.
The pedophile former mayor of Friendship Heights wanted to save lives, too, with his crusade to ban outdoor smoking. They all want to save lives and, so, they install another camera. What is one more camera in your life anyway?
You feel obligated to primp before stepping before the all-seeing eye in a department store, convenience store and bank.
It is the hope of Chief Ramsey and ACS that you understand a ticket a day keeps the 911 crew away. There is a larger picture at work here than the one that captures you running a red light. If the cameras can save just one life, then a totalitarian state is worth it.
It is all about discouraging the worst impulses in humans and preserving some semblance of order in the chaos.
At least a judge in San Diego is not buying the company line, ruling that the cameras are "so untrustworthy and unreliable" that their pictures cannot be admitted as evidence. The judge also objected to the company deciding whether a motorist should be ticketed, doing, in effect, the work of the police with a serious conflict of interest in place. It doesn't pay the company, obviously, to err on the side of motorists. Pay up, sucker.
The city already employs one of the best rackets there is, the parking-enforcement game, which works like this: There are too many vehicles and not enough parking spaces, so, rather than address the issue and bleed city coffers, it is preferable to hand out tickets and boot the worst scofflaws.
It is all in the bureaucratic spirit of giving to the federal, state and local governments. A bureaucracy's favorite charity is itself.
Next thing you know, the city and ACS just might want to install a camera in your watch just in case you are predisposed to litter.
That one piece of litter could blow through the open window of a vehicle, blind a motorist momentarily and cause an accident.
You can't be too authoritarian when you're trying to save lives.


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