Elliot: Trafficking in privacy

BY BEAU ELLIOT | JUNE 18, 2013 5:00 AM

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So suddenly (well, about as suddenly as the Moon changes, and yes, I realize that the Moon doesn’t really change, our perception of it changes, which might be what we mean when we say change we can believe in).

That might say something about our beliefs. Or our non-beliefs.

Anyway, so suddenly, everybody’s really, really, really concerned about privacy.

Well. That’s only around 14 years too late, give or take.

The ongoing flap over NSA snooping lit the tinderbox, of course. But you also have the FBI and the CIA and the DIA and, no doubt, several hundred other agencies with abbreviations you’ve never heard of skulking through all the various back doors that people have in their lives. (Front doors, too, because you’re not truly part of modern society unless you have Facebook, Twitter, texting, and smart phones that tell you how to find the restaurant just around the corner. I mean, actually walking around the corner and physically discovering the restaurant is so 20th century.)

(A word — maybe that should be “wrd” — about abbreviations. It’s amusing that so many normal-seeming people embrace abbreviating everything with the same fervor that the military and the various governments and the corporations embrace abbreviations. Especially the military, which I know from having once worked for the U.S. Army, which, all in all, was an abbreviated experience.

Abbreviations are dumb. Maybe not so dumb as mud hens, but. And no, Virginia, most of them are not acronyms. If you’re going to abbreviate everything that comes down the pike, you could at least learn the difference. Ten years from now — well, five — modern people will speak entirely in abbreviations, and all life will resemble txt mssging. And there will be even less prvcy.)

Worries about privacy have even trickled down (which works far better than the trickle-down theory of economics) to local level, what with the foofaraw over red-light traffic cameras. A citizens’ petition forced the City Council to backtrack on the cameras and the attendant perceived violation of our privacy (here come our beliefs again).

Usually, I’m on the side of civil libertarians when it comes to government intrusion into our lives. I mean, if national-security snooping into the lives of citizens was bad under Bush/Cheney, it’s bad under Obama, too.

But. As a perpetual pedestrian in our fair city, I don’t much mind red-light cameras, because I’m really tired of 1 in every 3 or 2.5 drivers trying to beat the red light by accelerating through the intersection. (You know who you are. So do I.)

And I can’t see how the privacy argument works in this case. Privacy no longer comes into play (if that’s what it is) when you’re in a public space. Get used to it.

So if red-light cameras would make drivers actually stop (imagine) for a red light, as a pedestrian, I’m all for it. (The intersection of Washington and Clinton is by far the worst, by the way. The police could post an officer there, and he or she would wind up with three dozen citations each day, I’m willing to bet. Not that I’m a betting person.)

And in any case, I’m less worried about privacy than, say, Republicans in the House trying to outlaw abortion. I’m not a fan of abortion, but I am a fan of choice. And even less than not being a fan of abortion, I am not a fan of Republican males on the House Judiciary Committee attempting to tell women what they may or may not do with their bodies.

Take Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., for example. In a committee hearing, he said, “Incidents of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.”

That’s even dumber than abbreviations. With “leaders” such as this, you’re concerned about privacy?

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