Thursday, June 25, 2009

25 JUN 09: Three Eyes, Not Blind

First there was Columbus Police at "Family Day in the Park." Now Russell County has its own way to get an overhead view of events as they happen. Our local government agencies are only about 15 years behind the TV "skycams," but they're trying....

The Russell County Commission watched a new surveillance device in action Wednesday. The Homeland Security Department used state grant money to purchase the "CAM-V." No, I don't think you operate it with a keyboard by pressing CTL-V.

The Houston company which sells the CAM-V says surveillance cameras can be raised 23 feet in the air, to watch over a wide range of activities. The device can be used for governmental projects. Or companies can use it to watch for thieves at construction sites - so cops can capture copper-nappers faster than they can learn to say the phrase, "Cops can capture copper-nappers."

The CAM-V can lift as may as four cameras. The model displayed for the Russell County Commission seemed to only have three - which again will lead critics to say Russell County is one camera shy of a full load.

(But at least Russell County is willing to spend a little money on this device. The alternative is to hope for a good satellite photo from Google maps at exactly the right moment of the day.)

Russell County Homeland Security Director William Alexander explained some of the ways the CAM-V might be used. For instance, the cameras can watch for signs of life after a natural disaster -- which means the device could be rented by Auburn University for some football games this fall.

But William Alexander also admitted the CAM-V could be used for law enforcement surveillance. For instance, it might be set up at the Russell County Sheriff's Department shooting range -- to catch Phenix City police officers trying to have some fun without permission.

The use of the CAM-V brings us back to a Bugs Bunny quote we mentioned in May: "Didya ever have the feeling you was being watched?" [27 May] This contraption is a new way for Russell County authorities to monitor what you do - although so far the video is NOT going on cable TV, the way Bear O'Brian's radio studio is.

I've heard plenty of people warn in recent years that surveillance equipment such as the CAM-V can intrude on your right to privacy. But it amazes me how often I've heard church pastors complain about that sort of thing. You'd think those ministers would realize Someone (ahem) is watching over them all the time now - and probably more closely than the Russell County sheriff.

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BLOG UPDATE: Take that, you scoffers! Our pick for the Miss Georgia pageant won a preliminary round Wednesday night. Kristen Little led her group in the evening gown competition. Tonight her group wears swimsuits - while somewhere on Victory Drive, a nightclub owner ponders how to reenact this change without the 24-hour delay.

WRBL's web site is offering live streaming video of every night of the Miss Georgia pageant. Aw, c'mon - for an event like this, a little web-cam simply isn't enough. Single guys like me want to see attractive young women in high-definition.

Now for other items, from a Wednesday which admittedly didn't inspire much humor....

+ Fort Benning changed commanding generals, with Gen. Michael Ferriter taking charge. Gen. Michael Barbero will take over multinational military operations in Iraq -- so he's taking careful notes on his move out, to help thousands of soldiers overseas do the same.

+ Richard Hyatt's web site revealed Mark Shelnutt delivered welcoming remarks during the recent United Methodist Church conference at the Columbus Civic Center. Shelnutt did this several weeks after his federal indictment - which may again prove the most-quoted verse in the Bible really is, "Judge not, that ye be not judged."

+ WXTX "News at Ten" showed a project by Auburn University architecture students, which turns cargo containers into modular homes. This is a creative approach - and homeowners might be able to make extra money, from people who mistake their house for a self-storage center.

+ Alabama State Treasurer Kay Ivey toured the state, announcing she'll run for governor next year. Personally, I don't think she has much of a chance. I base this on that classic December song "The Holly and the Ivey" - where the holly always wears the crown.

+ Instant Message to WLGA-TV: Have you considered putting your late-evening programming from the "Artists and Fans Network" on a second digital channel, and showing it around the clock? Or have you decided Country Music Television will file suit to keep your station off cable TV, and you'll lose?

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