Archive for February 2010

Traffic surveillance cameras might not be worth the wrath they incur

February 21, 2010

Let’s face it, when you’re broke, you do things you wouldn’t otherwise do. Because the state is broke, and because its governor is a tax- restraint advocate, and the legislators know tax hikes would be perilous just now, they may do something they wouldn’t otherwise do. Nevada could end up with traffic surveillance cameras.

Here’s a fact the governor and the gang of 63 should not ignore. People don’t care for photo surveillance of their driving. Electronic traffic enforcement is universally hated, everywhere it exists. Eleven times traffic surveillance cameras have gone to the ballot in the United States, and every time they’ve been crushed, according to the Washington Post. Not beaten, but crushed.

Some taxpayers are offended by the contracts with camera manufacturers, in which equipment is offered with no up-front charge, in return for a cut of the revenue.  It’s also notable that in most electronic surveillance jurisdictions, the violations don’t end up on the driver’s record, and don’t rack up insurance points. It’s obvious the sole purpose of the scheme is to ring the cash register. Citizens find that distasteful.

There’s no limit to the mischief the cameras inspire. Kids have created fake license plates in Photoshop, using numbers belonging to people they don’t like – then sped into camera range, creating a literal drive-by attack with the victim’s own vehicle registration as the weapon.  There’s been at least one documented case of surveillance rage, where an angry driver smashed a traffic cam. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, well, this one is priceless.

Entrepreneurs are happy to supply products that help drivers evade the cameras. A product called PhotoBlocker Spray renders the license number unreadable to the camera, but still visible to the human eye.

Of course, activists create anti-surveillance websites like this one, and this one, and there are  crusading lawyers who sue. Citizens take the issue to the ballot, and ultimately, legislatures ban electronic surveillance.

Yes, the Reasonable Reporter is aware that Governor Gibbons would propose surveillance only for the purpose of catching uninsured motorists, not red light runners or speeders. Who could object to that? Maybe, in a year when government is dead broke at all levels, few people will care if the state plays big brother to insurance deadbeats. But if you think the state will never entertain broader use of this equipment, you’re too innocent to leave the house by yourself.

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“Toyota — Moving Forward”… Um, yeah, so we’ve heard.

February 8, 2010

The beleaguered Toyota  Motor Corporation has begun to run television ads acknowledging its tarnished reputation, and promising to earn back customer confidence.  But the kids in the marketing department apparently didn’t catch their own (unintended) punchline at the end of the spot. The tag line “moving forward” tends to underscore the problem that brought the company to this point.  Yes, we heard that the cars move forward. Uncontrollably, and on at least one occasion at a horrifying speed.

What President Obama meant when he spoke of Las Vegas

February 3, 2010

With all the huffing and puffing that’s followed the president’s remark about blowing cash in Las Vegas, nobody has stepped back to examine the context. President Obama’s meaning and motive have both been misconstrued.

Obama was offering the family budget as a metaphor for the federal budget. He was talking to a gathering of “regular folks,” to the extent that any town hall where the president appears consists of regular folks. To highlight his new agenda starring the middle class, Obama tried to draw upon the lexicon, the experience, and the aspirations of the middle class. At least as they’re perceived in Washington, D.C.

The president said, “You don’t go buyin’ a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage.”

This was purposeful. He didn’t say “You shouldn’t buy a yacht if your stock options are down by 60 percent.”  Nor did he say,  “Don’t buy a kayak if the lease on your Prius has a large balloon payment.”  He said boat.

Next, the  president said, “You don’t blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you’re trying to save for college.”   Obama seemed to be suggesting that if you aspire to buy a boat instead of a yacht or a kayak, then Las Vegas must be your idea of a vacation splurge, not Martha’s Vineyard, or Sedona, or Aspen.

In Washington, they don’t know that Las Vegas is brimming with sophisticated discos, and restaurants with single-syllable names where the plates are square, not round, and the desserts are decorated with cross-hatched butterscotch-amaretto sauce, and burnt orange peel curlicues.

Moreover, in Washington, where there is no middle class, “middle class” is ill-defined. Nobody in Washington has a great deal of day-to-day interface with the middle class.  That’s all.  The president (and/or his speechwriters) didn’t mean to offend. If Obama is willing to forgive Harry Reid for letting slip with some ill-considered, pre-civil rights era remarks about race, Nevada should forgive Obama for letting slip with some outdated ideas about Las Vegas and the middle class.