Tuesday, February 01, 2000


Two-hundred-and-twenty-seven years ago, on December 16, a group of plucky American businessmen were tired of having the British Monarchy erode their profits with taxes. They conspired a protest, then raided a ship in the Boston harbor, dumping its cargo of tea. On July 14, 1789, thousands of French peasants raided the notorious Bastille prison, heralding the French Revolution and replacing the monarchy with a democracy that espoused “Liberty, Equality & Fraternity.” Fifty years ago, a group of refugee Jewish settlers living on the coast of Palestine organized a war to provide self-determination for a Jewish people. Freedom and Democracy has never come easy.

In his novel 1984, George Orwell warned us about a society where everything a citizen does and thinks would be controlled by the government. Back in the year 1984, many parallels were drawn between reality and Mr. Orwell’s fantasy. The general consensus was that we had avoided such a calamity. But have we?

Now that the year 1984 is old enough to drive into the next millennium, perhaps we should take another look. The Orwellian government controlled the populace with torture and repression. We don’t do that here, or do we?

How about the movement we’ve seen in the last decade of political correctness in media. Negro people have become African-American, homosexuals are now Gay, and don’t you dare call a woman a girl! Recently we’ve learned the White House has encouraged the television networks to place anti-drug themes in their productions in exchange for lowering the amount of time required for public service announcements. These things are not exactly torture (unless you’re watching television) but they are certainly a form of repression.

We’ve all seen the signs SPEED CONTROLLED BY RADAR. Think about it—the radar doesn’t control your speed, it only threatens your wallet, your economic viability. If the cop tags you with his radar/laser gun, then you’re going to shell out your hard-earned greenbacks to the government and the insurance company.

Speaking of insurance companies, Progressive Insurance is testing a new idea in Texas. With the car owner’s permission (those stupid suckers!), Progressive installs a black box under the driver’s seat. The box records the amount of time and distance that the car is driven. At least, that is all they say that they’re recording. The theory is that the less time and distance that the car is driven, the less risk that vehicle is in, so the lower the insurance premiums. There’s that wallet factor again.

Progressive isn’t the latest organization to test Orwellian controls on the population. At Leeds University in Britain, they’re testing an “intelligent speed adapter.” This unit will keep track of the vehicle’s location using Global Positioning System satellite signals. Then it will measure the vehicle’s speed and compare it to a database of speed limits. If the operator exceeds the speed limit, the black box will throttle back the fuel supply. Just the thing you need while passing a tandem tractor-trailer on a secondary road at night.

Had enough, kids? Sorry, it ain’t over yet! Over the last few years in Britain they’ve had “Gatso” cameras installed along popular motorcycling roads. These are self-contained camera-radar units that photograph the “violator” with nary a police-person in sight. The unsuspecting motorcyclist arrives home from his Sunday sojourn to find a pair of Bobbies with a set of handcuffs waiting at his front door. On the positive side (if you could possibly see it that way), a British insurance company has risen to the challenge by offering “Loss-of-License” protection. Edgar Hamilton, Ltd., will pay up to 14,400 pounds sterling for your choice of alternate transportation should you get “knicked.” As Fast Bike magazine reports, “. . . [while] they would not wish to condone irresponsible riding, they do recognize that with the prevalence of gatso cameras even Malcom Mild could lose his license in one high-spirited trip to the supermarket.” The insurance is sponsored by MAG (Motorcyclists Against Government) and costs £3.50 per month.

Governments and insurance companies are not the only organizations riding the 1984 bus. Mel Farr Motors of Detroit, MI will sell almost anyone a car, regardless of their creditworthiness. Mel controls the cars with a remote ignition-cut-off device. You don’t make your payment on time and the car won’t run, or if it’s running it will stop. Even if the driver is on his way to Mr. Farr to make a payment. Many industry experts have reported that the devices are dangerous and could even be a fire hazard. Detroit attorneys Lawrence Charfoos and Ken Hylton filed a lawsuit against the used-car dealer, but report little sympathy from the court.

From the Payback-is-a-bitch—Department of Misused-Technology, two Brit highway cops were sitting in wait for motorists on the A1 when their hand-held laser gun measured a speed in excess of 300 mph. The gun then seized and the cops could not reset it. It seems that they had locked onto a NATO Tornado fighter aircraft on a low-level flying exercise. The laser had activated the aircraft’s on-board tactical computer which instantly jammed the machine and armed a Sidewinder missile. Luckily (again, depending on your point of view), the pilot was able to disarm the missile before it vaporized the cops and everything within one square kilometer around them.

Now that’s the kind of laser/radar detector I'd like to have.

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