By Kent Carlson
Eric Blair lived a wild life. Born in India
in 1903, he was a cop in Burma, a tramp in England,
a soldier in Spain, a journalist in Paris and
a teacher in London, among a host of other things.
At age 42, his novel “Animal Farm” was published
under the pen name George Orwell. Four years
later, in 1949, “Nineteen Eighty-Four” was published.
By January of 1950, he was dead of tuberculosis.
From Amazon.com: “Among the seminal texts of
the 20th century, ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ is
a rare work that grows more haunting as its
futuristic purgatory becomes more real. Published
in 1949, the book offers political satirist
George Orwell’s nightmare vision of a totalitarian,
bureaucratic world and one poor stiff’s attempt
to find individuality.”
Maurice Gatsonides was born on Valentine’s Day
1911 in Java. At the time it was the Dutch East
Indies. He built charcoal gas generators during
WWII while helping the Dutch resistance; he
tried manufacturing automobiles; he raced cars
in Monte Carlo and LeMans; and he invented the
Gasto Speed Camera in the 1950s. He died in
From the UK Daily Mail: “50 people who’ve wrecked
Britain.” No. 42, “British officialdom is seldom
happier than when issued with a new gadget with
which to make the citizenry’s lives more miserable.
The daddy of them all, in the ‘gotcha’ gadget
world, is surely the roadside speed camera.
And the daddy of the speed camera? A Dutch rally
driver, of all things, named Maurice Gatsonides.”
Unlike Gatsonides, Orwell never lived to see
the impact of his contribution to humanity.
But their impact on society is a constant source
of controversy and discussion.
There is nothing new about traffic cameras and
the controversy that inevitably follows wherever
they are used. But the cameras are relatively
new to central Iowa. When government discovers
a new method of separating money from the people
they serve, they can usually find an excuse
for doing so. Remember pull-tab machines? Moral
relativism is much easier for politicians to
explain away when huge revenue streams are the
Now we have the latest, greatest technological
advancement that not only generates revenue
on every street corner, but potentially every
mile in between. There’s no limit to the revenue
that can be generated from the expanded use
of traffic cameras, especially when companies
like Gatso do all the work while skimming half
the take. Our finest can relax at Krispy Kreme
while a company on the other side of the Atlantic
deposits a suburban soccer mom’s $65 check for
allegedly going 11 mph over the posted limit.
Windsor Heights is one of those places the unfortunate
have to pass through to get to someplace worthwhile.
They are notorious for their speed traps, so
it was no surprise when they announced they
were installing speed cameras through their
little stretch of the cash cow known as the
McVicar Freeway. But when Polk County Sheriff
Bill McCarthy decided to cash in at the same
time the Iowa Legislature decided to duck out,
the expanding presence of Big Brother became
very apparent. McCarthy has plans for what has
been described as a countywide consortium that
would park cameras on high-traveled roads and
loan them to smaller municipalities. When it
comes to revenue producing cameras, more is
Ironically his son, Iowa House of Representatives
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, supports a law
to ban cameras. He is one of the few Democrats
favoring the ban. Other strange bedfellows include
the Iowa ACLU. They argue that 15 other states
have already banned use of the cameras.
The “I don’t smoke, I don’t speed, and I don’t
gamble” crowd sanctimoniously declare they are
fine with government’s growing intrusions. I
haven’t had a speeding ticket in 15 years. The
first and last nickel I put in a slot machine
was 17 years ago. But the incremental erosion
of our liberties isn’t something I consider
some other poor slob’s problem.
Eventually, even the most sanctimonious will
get the picture. CV
Kent Carlson is a native Iowa artist interested
in the preserving Iowa’s architectural heritage
and the common sense of its leaders. And he
writes a few columns for Cityview, too.