Friday, November 18, 2011

Eye in the sky

Starting next year, the city of Lancaster, in the desert roughly 45 minutes northeast of Los Angeles, is set to have a plane flying around 24/7, keeping an eye on the city. One resident quoted in the Los Angeles Times calls it a “spy plane” and is happy that it is coming.

The ACLU isn’t so sure. There is concern about privacy - duh! - especially with the plane videotaping and being able to see into backyards. The Lancaster police point out that the plane will enable them to see someone in trouble and needing assistance, and they promise that certain people won’t be targeted and that a very limited set of people can see the videotape. Meanwhile, Mayor Rex Parrish declares that he wants to make Lancaster “the safest city in America.”

Ah - Rex Parrish. Is he still the mayor there? Apparently so. This is a mayor who tried to have the City Council start all their meetings with a prayer to Jesus. He also tried to make it harder for landlords to rent to people with Section 8 housing subsidies, who are poor and tend to be of color. In fact, there is an ongoing federal investigation into surprise inspections of Section 8 rental units within the city (the annual inspections are typically scheduled weeks in advance) which are usually and very atypically accompanied by gun-toting police officers.

I draw two conclusions from this. One is that it really is the case that things tend to get much less progressive pretty quickly as one heads inland, at least on the west coast. The other is that it might be time to donate to the ACLU.

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