Opinion » Shredder

Shills!

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You might find this impossible to believe, but I was a socially awkward youth, the type of kid who would round up the neighborhood field mice and dress them up as United States legislators and make them pass laws that would benefit the greater good. Once in a very great while, I’d let loose and dress them up as the characters from Jersey Shore, but the mice usually rebelled on the grounds that it was beneath them.

I also used to hide my diary in really obvious places—the family liquor cabinet, my father’s Harlequin Romance collection—hoping that someone would take an interest. But alas, my stupid family respected my privacy far too much to intrude. That, or they just thought what I had to say would be really boring.

But I’ve got good news for every kid who grew up hoping someone would take an interest: Professional background scanners are doing everything in their power, including clogging up public records at the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court, to collect data about you and pretty much every other SLO County resident they can get their hands on. They’ll happily take a gander at your diary, and likely demand passcodes to any social networking sites you frequent. And the best part is, you don’t even know they’re doing it. I mean, you probably knew they were doing it if you happened to go by the courthouse and happened to see people hunched over their computers copying information from the courthouse database into their own PCs.

Just don’t call them “data miners.” Apparently they object to the term—something about the name dredging up a negative reaction from a public that’s none too hot on companies making a profit selling information about them. So we’ll call them “information diggers,” just to stay on their good side, despite the fact that they are technically digging, or mining, for information, also known as data. Let’s not quibble over nomenclature. We could call them whirlydiddlydos and they’d still be selling your information for profit.

So now these whirlydiddlydos are upset because the courthouse staff changed its policies, which previously allowed virtually unrestricted access to information. And the court did this because folks there were worried the county was going to get sued by someone who was denied a job based on information taken from courthouse records. Everyone else who relies on these public records—like, oh, say, newspapers—is upset because a handful of profiteers clogged up a system that was already suffering from staff shortages. And just to demonstrate their apparent sense of entitlement, according to court staff, the whirlydiddlydos occasionally dabbled in the teensiest of criminal behaviors, such as identifying themselves as federal investigators so that staff would waive fees.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve waved a fake badge once or twice, like when the line at Starbucks wasn’t moving quickly enough. And, of course, I did my time when I was caught. You can look it all up in the records at the court … oh wait. Well, you still can. But now you have to go in person, bug a staffer, and provide three feathers from a red-breasted sapsucker in exchange for a court docket. Of course, those ingenious whirlydiddlydos are already trying to figure out how to make a buck off the new system. You know, like asking people off the street to stand in line for them. Maybe those people could also carry badges, just to make sure they don’t have to pay any copying fees, either? I mean, it just wouldn’t be right for the people financially profiting off the court records to pay their share as they go along. Of course, they’re trying to paint themselves as First Amendment heroes, which totally makes sense, because I’m sure that amendment was written with the intention of protecting people who are selling other people’s personal information.

On a different note: Atheists United has a couple ideas for how the city could raise some money. And all the city has to do is stop granting special parking privileges to the half-dozen or so churches downtown. Atheists United is hot under the collar because the city, after consulting with several churches, decided that parking meters won’t run until 1 p.m. on Sundays in order to accommodate churchgoers.

Since when are parking laws about making people happy? The city has jacked the parking fees so high, I had to sacrifice my morning soy frappucino no-whip mocha. The only consolation is that we’re all in this together, all equally affected by the city’s expensive parking. Except that we’re not. Because apparently some people are being given a free pass on parking fees when they know they’ll be downtown. The City Council extended that option to five churches, which, not surprisingly said, “Our congregants shouldn’t have to be subject to the same parking fees as everyone else. Jesus needs spare change more than the City of San Luis Obispo.”

Jesus is one broke-ass dude if he’s even half as broke as SLO. Maybe he’s tapped from installing Mission-style sidewalks in heaven? I dunno. We usually bump into each other at Bull’s, but I haven’t seen him in the last couple of weeks, so I assume he’s out of the country harassing heathens to join his flock. What better propaganda than promising them they won’t have to pay parking in San Luis Obispo in exchange for their souls and Sundays?

The city’s “na na na na na na, we’re not technically doing anything illegal” response to the Atheists United complaint shows that it’s not even concerned about putting up a pretense of caring about the separation between church and state, which might not sound like a big deal, but if it’s willing to let churches dictate parking downtown, what else is it going to be allowed to dictate? In lieu of Pride, is the city going to start selling hunting licenses for gay people? Is there going to be a mandatory lynching of Planned Parenthood staffers in Mission Plaza?

It’s bad enough that you have to be rich to live here. I guess now you have to be a card-carrying, Bible-thumping Christian, too.

Shredder thinks SLO is getting a little too insulated. Send comments to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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