Wednesday, February 24, 2010

LIZ ON LIBERTY: Fighting red light cameras with Liz De Foe-Thomas

(Part 2 of a Heart Beat Beyond the Box Profile)
If the under-30 crowd has a political face, it may look more like Columbia native Liz De Foe-Thomas (left), 28, than Barack Obama.
When you first see De Foe-Thomas at home in one of her favored milieus -- social media -- you know you're looking at what author Malcolm Gladwell would call a 21st century connector/maven/persuader -- a triple threat knowledge gatherer with a knack for connecting new ideas to the rest of us -- and connecting the rest of us to her world. 
One of the brains behind a Red Light Camera protest planned at the intersection of Providence and Broadway this Friday, De Foe-Thomas believes that anyone can and should enjoy the fruits of freedom, but never by taking fruit or freedom from someone else without consent.   Taking our pictures -- and our privacy -- without consent, red light cameras have no place in De Foe-Thomas' world view.  
 "Abandoning" the two-party political system in 2007, De Foe-Thomas found herself "fed up with the Bush administration's antics; fiscal irresponsibility; the escalation of the War on Drugs (placing over 700,000 people a year in jail over utterly victimless crimes); the Patriot Act;  and ALL the shocking policies Bush quietly put in place, giving government untold power.
To find out where she ended up politically, and why people like her -- independents who refuse allegiance to one political party -- are starting to matter more and more, the Columbia Heart Beat interviewed Liz -- via Facebook, of course.
CHB:   What do we need to know about how the under-30 crowd views government and politics?

De Foe-Thomas:   While there is a fair amount of political diversity among the younger adult crowd, I think most see the errors of the last [Bush] administration and reject a lot of that ideology.  The current [Obama] administration has also caused much frustration, so I think the disillusionment is only going to continue.  
Columbia Heart Beat (CHB):  Tell our readers about the red light protest this Friday.  Who's organizing it?

De Foe-Thomas:   Firstly, it's not just happening in Columbia.  It's a mass red-light camera protest coordinated by several key activists across the country, and is a completely non-partisan project.   I'd been planning a protest when I heard about all of the camera installs going in over the winter.   When I was invited to participate in the nationwide protest, I was happy to use the opportunity to be a part of something that goes beyond just Columbia.
For those who want to get involved in the protest, feel free to email me:
CHB:  City leaders say cameras are all about safety.  So why the beef? 
De Foe-Thomas:  Aside from their Orwellian implications, red-light cameras present several problems.   
1)  Because municipalities install red light cameras primarily to generate revenue, shortening the timing on yellow lights has been a problem in several cities.

2)  I have had trouble finding the exact cost of the cameras per month on Columbia's city website, but in other Missouri cities I am told the cost is over $6,500 per month, per camera.  That adds up! 

3)  The city cannot prove that the person operating the vehicle is the same person to whom the vehicle is registered without a clear photo of both the license plate and the driver.  Sunshine requests about that information could then actually become privacy conflicts.

4)  Lastly, the "accuser" -- a robotic camera -- cannot be faced in court.
CHB:  On Facebook, you've been critical of special interests, such as banks, colluding with government to make a buck.   Why? 
De Foe-Thomas:   Take how banks, government, and bubbles cause Depressions.  The first really heavy round of special interest lobbying started during the 1700's, with repeated attempts to form an American central bank.  We had been thirteen individual colonies, each having its own banks, policies, financial institutions--and perhaps most importantly, currencies.  
Bankers finally succeeded in 1791, forming The First Bank of the United States, essentially created to hand monetary systems over to the central government.   Not good.  Thomas Jefferson would later warn in 1816 that we were "under a bank bubble," stressing that it was expected to burst.  And burst it did.  A result of massive loans and bank fraud unrestrained by the government, the Panic of 1819 was our "first" Great Depression. 
Thomas Jefferson was probably right when he said, "If the American people ever allow private banks to control their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, banks -- and corporations that will grow up around them -- will deprive people of their prosperity until their children one day wake up homeless, on the continent their fathers conquered."
Today, our central bank is the Federal Reserve Bank, which controls the economy artificially, through interest rates.  Formed in 1913, the Fed had a huge hand in creating the 1929 Depression, just as the previous central bank had fueled the 1819 Depression.
The Fed has inflated and re-inflated our current bank-and-government motivated bubble, the housing bubble, far exceeding any we've seen in US history.   What concerns more and more of us is that, while prophetic economists keep predicting the total collapse of the dollar as a result of this bubble economics, the Fed just plugs its ears, and continues printing the value right out of our money.
CHB:   You spend a lot of time on social media, like Facebook.  What about social media do you find so compelling?
De Foe-Thomas:   I originally started networking on social media to connect with others in Missouri and around the country who are getting involved in the same ways I am.  I love it!   Ideas can be exchanged, news, photos and videos can be shared and spread quickly.  The web has pretty much always enabled this kind of sharing, but the power of Facebook in particular is undeniable. No other place on the web has brought so many different people together in one virtual space.
CHB:  Thanks again for a great discussion.  As we wrap up, any parting thoughts? 
De Foe-Thomas:   I have a question we might want to ask ourselves:  How free are we, really?  We need permission to do many everyday things, most of which pose no real threat to another's property, well-being, or freedom.
We need official, government-sanctioned, paid-for permission to catch fish, get married, build something, own a business -- even use our right of free speech in the form of assembly or protest.
A free country is not a nanny state where the government acts as an overbearing parent, 'protecting' us from ourselves and requiring that we fall in line.   But permits, licenses and red tape in general have become and continue to become a way of life -- one that a lot of us just deal with and don't question. 
But if we're not questioning it, who's stopping it from becoming incrementally worse?

1 comment:

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