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August 16, 2007

Internal Passports
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 03:13 PM *

Next up from Security Theater:

(CNN) — Americans may need passports to board domestic flights or to picnic in a national park next year if they live in one of the states defying the federal Real ID Act.

The act, signed in 2005 as part of an emergency military spending and tsunami relief bill, aims to weave driver’s licenses and state ID cards into a sort of national identification system by May 2008. The law sets baseline criteria for how driver’s licenses will be issued and what information they must contain. The Department of Homeland Security insists Real ID is an essential weapon in the war on terror, but privacy and civil liberties watchdogs are calling the initiative an overly intrusive measure that smacks of Big Brother.

More than half the nation’s state legislatures have passed symbolic legislation denouncing the plan, and some have penned bills expressly forbidding compliance.

That’s because the various states (more than half of them!) are so leftist-liberal-radical and so much Want the Terrorists to Win, I guess. Seriously, when the states are pushing back that hard that’s a sign that something is seriously wrong at the national level. Think of it as over half the country saying “I call bullshit on your Real ID Act.”

I remember back in the days of the Cold War how the Soviet Union’s insistence on Internal Passports was reported as a major mark of tyranny. Well, if was good enough for Joe Stalin it’s good enough for George Bush. Between torture, gulags, warrantless wiretaps and now internal passports we’re well down the slope and gathering speed. The Real ID act is stupid. This latest proposal is beyond stupid.

“An overly intrusive measure that smacks of Big Brother” is one of the nicest, mildest things you can say about this nonsense.

Osama bin Laden can’t destroy America without out our help. Bush is giving him far more help than he ever dreamed.

Comments on Internal Passports:
#1 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 03:27 PM:

You should see how mad people get when I tell them that Dubya is the best friend Osama bin Laden ever had. Hoo boy.

#2 ::: Matt ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 03:31 PM:

>>Osama bin Laden can’t destroy America without out our help. Bush is giving him far more help than he ever dreamed.

Yeah, if the terrorists are attacking us "because they hate our freedom(tm)," isn't giving up those freedoms for "security(tm)" surrendering Vichy-French style?

#3 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 03:33 PM:

#1: Xopher, they're only angry because they can't deal with the unvarnished truth.

As for internal passports, I'm unfortunately unsurprised. Once the RFID tags went in, it was pretty clear that the administration wanted to use them as our Identity Papers.

Besides, as you know, Bob, terrorists always identify themselves with scrupulous accuracy.

#2: Absolutely. The administration is doing this because they're scared and, more importantly, they want us to be scared. It is quite odd considering how much the administration's supporters make fun of the French.

#4 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 03:40 PM:

I hope that whoever the next president is makes disestablishing the Department of Homeland Security his or her very first official act.

#5 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 03:42 PM:

#2 Matt, actually it's called, "Denying the Enemy Their Target."

And, once again, "Papers, please."

"But I'm just trying to buy underwear."

"Papers, please," the greeter said, huffing a little.

"All I need is a three-pack of tighty-whities."

"I'm sorry, sir, but we can't let you into Wal-Mart without your Papers. The terrorists, you know, hate us for our capitalism. You don't want them to win by denying our rights to shop, do you?"

"Alright, here they are."

#6 ::: Matt ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 03:47 PM:

#5: Ah ... like how we are denying Saddam the ability to blow up Iraq. It's all so clear now.

#7 ::: Dan ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 03:48 PM:

Without bin Laden and 9-11, I simply can't imagine how Bush would have managed to run this country?

#8 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 03:54 PM:
I remember back in the days of the Cold War how the Soviet Union’s insistence on Internal Passports was reported as a major mark of tyranny.

Me too.

Honestly, I hope for someone that dismantles much of the Big Brother establishment that has been created by this administration. By necessity, the person would end up serving only one term, because all sides would make the most of discrediting their actions.

#9 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 03:58 PM:

Congress, those cowards, wrote and passed this into law, along with the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act (hiss, boo) and all the others we don't know about because the no-longer-interesting-in-behaving-like-a-free press stopped paying attention 6 years ago. Blame them too.

#10 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 04:14 PM:

I swear to god I wish there was a news program that emphasized this kind of thing as often as the Daily Show does.

Every once in a while someone comes on and tells Jon Stewart that he's the only person who is getting the real news out there. Stewart always looks comically striken and says "you know we're a fake news show, right?" But it's sadly true. To mix metaphors, only the jester can get away with saying the emperor has no clothes. The interview last night with Stephen Hayes was both incredibly beautiful from a rhetorical standpoint and tragic in how closely the biographer stuck to the talking points.

Something that struck me recently. A few years ago I was watching a documentary on East and West Germany. A woman who had managed to escape from East to West was talking about her life after the escape. When in cafes in West Germany she would often whisper, or talk behind her hand if she was saying something controversial. Her friends would always stop her, and remind her that she didn't have to do that anymore.

A few months ago, a friend of mine was advised to take down comments specifically critical of the president from his Livejournal: an online LJ friend had recently gotten a visit from the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland security after he made a similar post. A few weeks ago, I found myself talking behind my hand when I was speaking negatively about the current administration in public. I remembered the old documentary, and was very unnerved.

#11 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 04:19 PM:

leah @ 10
At Firedoglake they remind people (fairly frequently) that threats will bring the Feds down upon the blog. People also will put a phrase in the comment like 'NSA: figurative use'. We know we're being watched.

I've been considering burqas for political-protest wear, preferably in red-white-and-blue fabric.

#12 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 04:33 PM:

I swear to god I wish there was a news program that emphasized this kind of thing as often as the Daily Show does.

Olberman? Air America?

#13 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 04:47 PM:

Frankly, I'm glad we're slowly chipping away at our freedom. Because if the terrorists hate freedom, and we take away that freedom... it's quite clear all the work being done to erect a totalitarian state are simply olive branches to the Terrorists.

Leah @ 10 : keeerist, that's scary.

#14 ::: dlbowman76 ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 04:55 PM:

One can readily imagine the scene...


Security official: Can I help you?
Citizen: Yes, I'm here because my travel privileges have been rescinded. There must be some mistake.
Security official: No citizen, we don't make mistakes.
Citizen: But what am I meant to have done?
Security official: According to our data, you haven't been to church in over two months. Not very civic-minded behavior, is it?
Citizen: Is that a crime?
Security official: No, but traveling without your ID is. Your church has an RFID reader, and they submit detailed attendance records to us every week. We've decided in light of your...erratic shall we say? In light of your erratic behavior, your travel privileges will be suspended for 6 months.
Citizen: But my work! I need to travel for work!
Security official: You will have plenty of time to reflect on your priorities, citizen. I suggest you meet with your pastor and consider the well-being of your soul before your pocketbook.
Citizen: And will he be reporting on me too?
Security official: If you aren't doing anything wrong, then you don't have anything to worry about, do you?

#16 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 05:06 PM:

The UK has experienced considerable internal terrorism over the years, yet has never needed an internal passport system. Further, I can't see how one would have helped: IRA terrorists would have been unlikely to fill in their real names when committing acts of terrorism, and in any case they could just drive to their destinations (assuming the intent was to use the planes as a transport system not as a missile: the IRA, not being composed of utter maniacs, never considered the latter option that I know of).

#17 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 05:21 PM:

Submitted to Slashdot.

#18 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 05:23 PM:

Sorry. That should have been, no-longer-interested-in-behaving-like-a-free press

I heard an NPR program today about some kind of ID specifically designed to permit its holder to avoid long lines at airports; it has all kinds of high tech info on it -- retinal scan, fingerprints, blood type, whatever -- and it costs $100 to use each time it is used.

Because people who can easily spend $100 per flight on such a device are obviously more trustworthy than those who can't afford it.

#19 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 05:28 PM:

Nix @16: Nevertheless, we're getting one.

This push towards installing a cybernetically-mediated police state is not unique to the USA or the UK. It's global in scope, and it's spreading.

(Anyone would think we were living in a particularly unpleasant Vernor Vinge novel and The Emergency had just begun to make their play. If Vernor goes missing, that's the final straw.)

#20 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 05:29 PM:

...or to picnic in a national park

wait, what?

#21 ::: Chryss ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 05:35 PM:

Because if terrorists can't picnic, we win!

Either that or Yogi Bear joined al-Qaida. I can't decide.

#22 ::: Avocado of Death ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 05:38 PM:

Lizzy L @18: Is it possible that this is what they were talking about?

#23 ::: Leva Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 05:47 PM:

#20 -- re: not camping in national parks -- the cynic in me thinks they could be thinking of restricting travel on federal lands if you don't have an "internal passport." And that's a much bigger issue than "national parks."

Though the national parks issue alone is not insignificant; the first thing I think of is my father's cabin, which is in a tiny island of private land surrounded by quite a bit of national park and national forest. The road in is maintained by the forest service. If they required a papers to travel through the nat'l forest lands I would no longer be able to visit my father without registering.

MUCH of Arizona is Federal lands, actually. Pure speculation here -- if they were to add some checkpoints to look for "illegal aliens" or "red diesel" or whatever, voila, you wouldn't be able to travel without papers. No papers? No pass. (Red diesel is diesel intended for construction equipment and farm equipment and dyed red -- farmers & construction companies don't pay road taxes on it. They do have periodic random checkpoints for it out here.)

-- The next step, of course, would be to deny a "passports" to anyone who couldn't pass a security check. And I don't think I need to elaborate to this group the ramifications of that. or the reasons the feds could come up with to deny security clearance for internal passports to citizens. (Or not even deny it ... just hold it up for "more review.")

Pure speculation, but nothing this administration does would surprise me anymore.

#24 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 05:57 PM:

Avocado of Death, I think that is exactly what they were talking about. According to the website all applicants are vetted by the TSA and the card costs $100 a year, not $100 per flight. My bad.

But the whole idea makes me furious. Since when is it appropriate for the federal government to collaborate with some corporate entity to create a privileged class? The CLEAR card application process requires that you provide two government-issued IDs which prove residency and legal status, and your information is submitted to TSA for a "security threat assessment" before they will issue the card. No way to know what criteria the TSA is using. They say that they use information obtained from law enforcement and intelligence databases. (And we all know how accurate those are.) All so that you don't have to stand in line to take off your shoes and turn over the unopened water bottle you forgot that you had purchased.

Don't get me wrong. I could do this. I could get a CLEAR card. At least, I think I could. It depends -- how far back does the info on that database go? 40 years? That could be a problem. And does membership in ACLU or PETA disqualify me for the card? If it does, will they tell me? What other activities disqualify me that they won't tell me about. And who authorized this CLEAR card thingie, anyway?

#25 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 06:21 PM:

Dan #7: Without bin Laden and 9-11, I simply can't imagine how Bush would have managed to ruin this country?


(actually, I do have some hope left)

#26 ::: Doug Faunt ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 06:42 PM:

Lizzy #24- The whole thing is too outrageous, so I'll pick at a nit- Most of the people who pay the $100. to get cleared will charge it off as a business expense, so guess who pays in the end?

#27 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 06:54 PM:

Doug at 26, of course. If I were to get a card, I would write it off as a business expense too. Stands to reason.

Turns out that it was on KQED this morning because the service is newly expanded to SFO.

#28 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 06:59 PM:

If This Goes On-

2012 is fast approaching, jump on the Scudder bandwagon now!

#29 ::: Wim L ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 07:07 PM:

#4: I hope so too, but it's clear that it won't just happen. Considering how friendly the post-2006 Congress has still been to this kind of thing.

So what can we do, now, to make such a change more likely in 2008?

#30 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 07:11 PM:

I want a bumpersticker that says:


#31 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 07:28 PM:

Matt #2: Unlike W, Pétain actually did fight in a war. I'd call that unfair to the Vichy French.

#32 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 08:17 PM:

Connie H:

I'd like to buy that bumper sticker.
/readies wallet

#33 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 08:26 PM:

I saw the Clear line when I went to Orlando on business last month. It was very creepy. Thankfully, we don't have it in Seattle. If they were to take away the frequent flier line (yes, more corporate privilege...) and replace it with that odious system, I'd be forced to choose between standing in a really long line with a high concentration of novice travelers who don't know how to get through the checkpoint quickly, or forking over way too much private info to save time.


#34 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 08:42 PM:

I'm sure that frequent travelers with good paperwork will be able to obtain expedited passage through our internal security checkpoints for a nominal membership subscription fee. The rest of us will have to anticipate delays and make our travel plans accordingly.

#35 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 10:48 PM:

Now I desperately want to buy the CLEAR card just so I can show up to the airport every time dressed from head to toe in outlandish drag. I'm thinking facepaint, dominatrix shoes...

Even if the money goes nowhere I'd want it to go, it might be worth it for the culture hacking.

#36 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 10:50 PM:

A.J. @ #35, why not a burqha or khaffiyeh? Go for the whole nine yards, I say.

#37 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 11:11 PM:

When I last renewed my passport (before the Toronto WorldCon I THINK) Acutally looking at the date it was before ConJose:

All I was asked was to provide my prior passport when I said I had one (after my unpleasant experience changing states from KS to MO in driver's licensure I brought just about Every Document You Might Need) they just said, 'give us your old passport and your photographs, that's all we need...". I went, "oh." (denounment)

I'm just glad I don't have to renew until 2012.

#38 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 11:14 PM:

Better yet, you'll need to have RealID to get into any federal building.

Translation: Whoops, can't do jury duty, because you won't let me into the courthouse!

#39 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 11:40 PM:

Erik @ 38

Well, maybe not jury duty (usually it's at county or city courthouses), but what are they going to do with post offices, especially substations in shopping centers and office buildings?

#40 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 12:59 AM:

Lizzy L, #18, it's only $28 per year for the TSA part. The other part is a service provider, which so far is only airports and airlines, and that amount can vary.

Avocado, #22, that's a company that's a service provider. Their real name is Verified Identity Pass (scroll down). You'll see the other service providers there, too, but you'll have to check which handle which airports.

#41 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 02:03 AM:

Charlie #19:

And by the way, why have I suddenly got this blinding headache?

#42 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 02:17 AM:

Linkmeister @ 36; I'll think of doing that but I'm a tad sensitive to issues of cultural appropriation.

#43 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 02:18 AM:

And the truly hilarious part* is that these high-tech ID cards get hacked faster than they can be issued. The RFID in the new US passport has already been hacked. What reasonable** justification can there be for issuing an identity card that can be cloned cheaply and easily by any hacker?

* for sufficiently ironic values of hilarious.

** I know, the real justifications are unreasonable.

#44 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 02:22 AM:

Matt #2:

I just want to point out that we are not becoming a police state. We are simply a liberal democracy which has decided to take certain actions for the security of the people. Just reasonable measures like tapping everyone's phones, using phone and internet records to do traffic analysis on essentially everyone (with no warrant needed), using cellphone data for tracking locations of people of interest (and maybe everyone is of interest), compiling dossiers on millions of citizens to find terrorists, arbitrary detention and torture of citizens and foreigners suspected of involvement in terrorism, and use of high-tech surveillance technology like spy satellites and UAVs to keep an eye on the citizens.

James #4:

What that has happened in the last six years makes you expect the repeal of any of this stuff? To get rid of these powers now, someone has to:

a. Expose themselves to charges that they're not fighting the war on terror, and are leaving America vulnerable to attack.

b. Give away massive powers that they are likely in a position to control.

c. Destroy existing programs, with employees and contractors and whole industries depending on them.

Maybe I'm just in a gloomy mood here, but I expect to see practical fusion power before I see an end to the war on terror and its associated scary power grab for the feds in general, and the executive branch in particular. That power is too useful, those empires are too nice to have, that money is too much fun to disperse to friendly (and generous) companies.

#45 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 02:46 AM:

A.J. @ #42, right. I should have thought of that before making the suggestion.

albatross @ #44, are you trying to live up to your namesake's rep? Not that I disagree with your premise; I think it will be very hard for any new President, even as enlightened as some of the Democrats may be, to give up much of this lovely authority.

I do wish during some floor debate about one of these things some sardonic Democratic Senator would look over at his/her colleagues on the Republican side and say, while nodding at the junior Senator from New York, "Do you guys really want one of us to have this kind of power?"

That might at least give some of the Republicans pause.

#46 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:17 AM:

Me @ 43

Thinking some more about it, it just may be that the only saving grace of all these Big Brother initiatives is that all our would-be autocrats seem to be enamored of high technology. Of course they can't get it implemented correctly for any government agency using ISO-9000 processes and contract programmers, and 16 year-old hackers keep breaking their security. So maybe they'll just be an irritant rather than a major threat to freedom. I hope.

#47 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:17 AM:

"Who do you want to have this power in the future," is an argument I've used on politiicians.

I'm not sure it works. Here in the UK, we had the Conservative Party from 1979 to the 1997 election, and there doesn't feel like much hope of them winning the next election and chucking out Labour. There's a pattern of flip-flops between electable and unelectable, and the unelectable phases of self-inflicted divisive vitriol have lasted longer.

Anyway, I'm not quite sure you could call it arrogance any more, but the politicians don't seem to believe that they will lose and hand over the powers to their enemies. And that's a bad sign, in any country. Enemies who are incompetent aren't anything like as bad a reason as a rigged election, but if your opposition is easy to present as incompetent to govern, it can help hide a lot of worse stuff.

#48 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:35 AM:

albatross #44:

I didn't live through the McCarthy era, but all of this sounds more and more like the anti-communist hysteria of the time. (I found a copy of None Dare Call It Treason at a book fair a couple of months ago, and the rhetoric was astoundingly familiar--all this stuff about how, OMG! they could be in our schools or our churches or our places of employment, and you couldn't tell that they were t/e/r/r/o/r/i/s/t/s g/a/y commies, until it was Too Late, those sneaky bastards!)

So my question is: How did we beat the paranoia the last time? (If we did--it seems sometimes like the "eeek, Red Commies!" just got subsumed into "eeek, brown Muslims!" but at least there seem to have been a few years in there where we weren't panicking at the drop of a hat.) What happened to decrease the general level of fear amongst the populace after McCarthy? Would that, whatever it was, be at all instructive in our current situation?

#49 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:40 AM:

Also, note to self, 's' 'strikeout' 'strike' works as a strikeout html tag...

#50 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:43 AM:

Nenya @ #48, "What happened to decrease the general level of fear amongst the populace after McCarthy? Would that, whatever it was, be at all instructive in our current situation?"

I'll hazard a guess that part of it was the end of a hot war/police action in Korea. When the perceived enemy isn't actively fighting you with bullets and bombs, you have time to be more reflective.

That's by no means the whole story, and I was a toddler in 1953, so I don't have a personal memory that pertains to the question.

#51 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:55 AM:

Nenya #48, #49: On the other hand, slashies do have a nice, traditional feel to them, but that's from my perspective as an ole BBS flame warrior.

#52 ::: Zeborah ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 05:15 AM:

If I was good at writing Idea Stories, I'd write a story in which the Government was busy finding ever-new and slyer ways of passing legislation that erodes privacy and freedom, and privately congratulating itself on all the power it was thus amassing...

...while the proletariat was carrying on quite happily with daily life, using various illegal but ubiquitous hacks to evade the consequences of the legislation without the government ever noticing.

#53 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 06:10 AM:

I've figured it out. This is all helping to keep your freedoms intact. Of course you're not allowed to use them - you might dent them, or break something, or damage the finish. This is why the freedoms of the US of A are restricted to a select group of people, who know how to treat them properly (as with all valuable antiques, this group is chosen by a very simple matrix: if you can afford it, you can have it - provided you lock it away carefully). Some things are just too valuable to allow the common herd access to them all the time.

There are long-term plans to bring these freedoms out on public display, once a suitable museum can be located. Expect to have to produce your papers and pass a security check (as well as a personality audit and an inspection of your wallet) in order to be able to view them. However, these are still your freedoms, preserved by the government of the US of A, on behalf of the citizenry of the US of A. They are maintained in excellent working order by a group of hobbyists.

#54 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 06:47 AM:

Meg is largely right, but I have a variant hypothesis, which covers the entire apparatus of state security and security theatre at airports that has sprung up since 9/11.

Let's remember that the global security-industrial complex focussed on anti-terrorism turns over roughly US $90Bn per year, and it's grown to that scale in only six and a half years. This is effectively an industry that depends on a single class of customer -- governments -- and so it focusses its marketing tightly on persuading them to buy more produce. It is also an industry that depends on a negative. If no terrorist incidents occur, then it can point to the absence and claim a victory. If terrorist incidents do occur, then obviously the government didn't buy enough Security™ and needs to cough up more money. Value for money is thus not demonstrated by achieving anything measurable, but by conducting ostentatious displays of Security-Mindedness, as exemplified by all the uniformed flunkies making work for each other (and the flying public) at airports.

This is a pathological condition, because it has no well-defined exit state. For any conceivable movie-plot terrorist outrage, a business case can be made (and presented to terrified politicians) for conducting a security initiative to prevent it. Failure to cough up the money will be a career-limiting move if the threat actually materializes, while publicizing its existence without actually doing something to block it makes any such materialization more likely. Thus, failure to fund any random piece of nonsense dreamed up to deter a non-existent threat may turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy. (Hence: terrified politicians.)

At the same time, a lot of the mechanical aspects of the proposed anti-terrorism techniques are dubious, if not as bogus as most of the Strategic Defense Initiative snake-oil anti-ICBM weapons that so much money has been wasted on. See, for example, the current proposals for a magic scanning room that can screen people for "hostile intent" and weed out terrsts from ordinary traveling folks. It's like the polygraph snake-oil all over again. (Polygraphs, incidentally, aren't used much outside the US; their main mode of operation is to terrify people who believe they work into confessing.)

So, faced with a wild escalation of threats, some of which may or may not be self-sucking lollipops, the ordinary folks tasked with implementing unworkable snake-oil solutions throw up their hands and ask for other, more achievable capabilities instead -- long-term detention for interrogation, easy phone taps, and so on. They're already drowning in data, but at least this stuff is something they can achieve, something where they might get concrete results if they only apply them to the right people. And the politicians, trained into terrified submission by the puppet show run by the security industry salesmen, salivate on cue.

#55 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 09:37 AM:

Linkmeister #45:

I fear thee, ancient Democrat
I fear thy withered hand

#56 ::: Francis ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 09:49 AM:

Charlie at 54:

You inspired part of my rant. I think you forgot the attraction of security stuff like this for bureaucratic empire builders.

#57 ::: Donna ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 10:08 AM:

And this guy was elected as a conservative?!?!?!?!?! Whatever happened to the idea of conservatives as defenders of individual & states' rights?

#58 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 10:45 AM:

One of the major problems here is that we've been socially conditioned to accept this ongoing erosion of our rights after being subject to three generations of Wars on Freedom, starting with the War on Communism, then the War on Drugs and now the War on Terror.

#59 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 10:54 AM:

Lance @ 58

Having just been reading the legalese that re-upped the unpartriotic act, about half of said legalese has to do with meth and its precursors, regulation thereof. The rest of it - well, a lot of the changes are on the order of 'amend thus-and-such by removing the words XYZ' where you have to look up the previous version of thus-and-such to find out what, exactly, they're doing to it.

#60 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 10:55 AM:

It's not a question of liberal or conservative, really; it's more a question of insecurity management in the face of change.

(Note that the great majority of revolutions since 1700 have been reactionary revolutions to prevent or revert social changes considered unacceptable, not attempts to overthrow tyranny or make things better.)

The ... call it the official ... construction of legitimacy is presently, in the US and UK and some other places, the consent of the governed; the difficulty is that the majority of the political class in those countries do not accept that this is a valid constraint on their right to exercise power. They believe in a variety -- no philosophical synthesis has as yet appeared -- of essentialist 'right to rule' views, and since these are used widely as explanations for the necessity of the present corporate autocracy, and that autocracy is widely (and correctly) regarded as the route to individual wealth and increased social status, these ideas gain increasing currency outside of the echelons of the political class actually exercising widespread power.

Since we're also undergoing a vast increase in communications capability, one which renders pointless most of the traditional mechanisms of social control through information filtering, we're also seeing a great deal of unease inside that power-exercising political class.

Which basically means we're getting a response to not knowing what to do -- to feeling insecure -- that comes down to wanting arbitrary power because the folks making that decision know where the people implementing the arbitrary power are and can talk to them to get what they want, and this reduces the problem to one with which they are comfortable.

It goes along with a belief that the purpose of government is not securing the general welfare or a general prosperity, but to guarantee the stability of wealth.

This was more or less inevitable when (pick one) the US Supreme Court decided that the Constitution only applied inside the United States, when the US Supreme Court decided money was speech, or when the Eisenhower Administration decided that the US stood for capitalism, not democracy, and adopted a policy of replacing democratic socialists with reliably corporatist strongmen inside its sphere of influence.

That this is, from a "let's solve the ostensible problem" point of view, really stupid behavior is not the point; the point is to create and maintain conditions under which members of the power-exercising class feel secure in their ability to exercise power.

The idea that there will be an honest election again in the US without a mass uprising is risible for more or less this reason; elections are not predictable, and, in the minds of the folks supervising most of the elections, that makes the activity of holding an honest election illegitimate.

#61 ::: Nell ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 12:02 PM:

James McD #4: I hope that whoever the next president is makes disestablishing the Department of Homeland Security his or her very first official act.

Don't hold your breath. Here's Sen. Clinton in the CNN debate, making a little speech that could have come from Bush's mouth:

BLITZER: Senator Clinton, do you agree with Senator Edwards that this war on terror is nothing more than a bumper sticker; at least the way it's been described?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D) NEW YORK: No, I do not. I am a senator from New York. I have lived with the aftermath of 9/11, and I have seen firsthand the terrible damage that can be inflicted on our country by a small band of terrorists who are intent upon foisting their way of life and using suicide bombers and suicidal people to carry out their agenda.

And I believe we are safer than we were. We are not yet safe enough. And I have proposed over the last year a number of policies that I think we should following.

via Jon Schwarz, who gives this kind of talk the treatment it deserves. I've bolded the especially disingenuous and Bush-like passages. It should go without saying, but apparently doesn't, that disassembling the DHS isn't one of the proposals to which Clinton's referring.

The Patriot Act was not repealed, it was extended, and now has no sunset. There's not any political momentum to restore habeas, much less repeal the full detention, torture, and kangaroo court provisions of the Military Commissions Act. (We can hope for a favorable decision on habeas now that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Guantanamo prisoners' case, but Congress is sitting on its hands because "the votes aren't there.")

Once powers are ceded to the executive, they are almost never successfully clawed back. Do you really think that in a Democratic administration, a Democratic Congress will make that a priority? And even though Republicans are capable of turning on a dime and becoming rabid advocates of Congressional authority once a Democrat is in the White House, they won't be fighting to restore habeas or end torture.

RealID is probably about the only case in which enough Rs will join with civil liberties Ds to bring us back to the not-particularly-free-but-looks-awfully-good-from-here days of the twentieth century.

#62 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 12:45 PM:

Bumper sticker:


#63 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 01:09 PM:

Donna: "States' rights" from conservatives has always been a lie. It's always been used to justify the right of states which have a more traditionalist majority to inflict more traditional and repressive laws on all of their residents, right back to Jim Crow and anti-miscegenation laws. When other states want to relax traditionalist rules (e.g. the many states which have approved medical marijuana use, or the states approving gay marriage or civil unions), the cry for states' rights is dropped as if it never existed.

More succinctly: the ratchet on the garrote moves only in one direction.

#64 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 01:11 PM:

Of course, once you do present the proper travel documents to the nice people at the security gate, you can be assured that for the rest of the trip, you will be treated like a respectable citizen and a valued customer of the airline. Or not.

#65 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 01:17 PM:

Leah Miller @#10:
Something that struck me recently. A few years ago I was watching a documentary on East and West Germany. A woman who had managed to escape from East to West was talking about her life after the escape. When in cafes in West Germany she would often whisper, or talk behind her hand if she was saying something controversial. Her friends would always stop her, and remind her that she didn't have to do that anymore.

Sorry to bring that news to you, but Western Germany (and now Germany) had the kind of thing that the post at the top of this thread is complaining about pretty much all the time. (Allthough without the 100 dollar queue jumping option.)

I used to find it pretty confusing when some place in the English speaking world planned to introduce something I've lived with for all my life without ever feeling particularly oppressed by it, and then a lot of people got up in arms about the horrible oppression they were facing, but now I find it simply amusing.

#66 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 01:22 PM:

Seth @ 64

Another data point:
I worked with a woman whose mother was flying (entirely inside Texas) on Continental - this was in the mid-90s. Her luggage arrived on the flight, but she didn't. AFAIK, Continental never explained why she wasn't on it, but they allowed her one phone call, which, since they lived an hour from the airport and had already left to collect her, was not answered, and they wouldn't even let her leave a message for them at the airport via the airline personnel.

#67 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 01:23 PM:

Once we succeed in making the DHS fully unionized it will be much easier to get support for abolishing it as a whole.

#68 ::: Max Kaehn ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 01:33 PM:

Charlie in #54 notes one profit loop. The video that recently surfaced showing that Cheney knew that Iraq would be a quagmire has been all over the Internet; even though the VP knew what would happen, we went in and made a mess that will create business for Halliburton for many years to come. Could it be that the real focus of the Bush Administration is just to ensure long-term profits for the right portfolio of corporations?

#69 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 01:45 PM:

Max Kaehn #68:

It certainly fits in with what I've described elsewhere as the overriding corporate ethos/focus/whatever of the administration. It also doesn't require one to go around searching for large pockets of Malice™ everywhere, which makes my internal Occamizer much happier.

#70 ::: Dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 01:49 PM:

Zeborah @ 52 - Maybe a historical fiction using the Navigation, Sugar, and Stamp Acts (and the circumventing therof) as a base?

Ajay @62 - That is absolutely full of win! Does Avery have ink-jet bumperstickers?

#71 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 02:32 PM:

I haven't yet chosen a Democratic candidate to support in the primaries, but Chris Dodd has made restoring the Constitution the centerpiece of his campaign. Habeus Corpus, separation of powers, etc.

We'll have to watch and see how serious he is. He's obviously a darkhorse candidate (that is, he's ignored by the media gatekeepers), but hopefully he can gain at least enough traction on the issue to sway the Democratic platform.

#72 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 02:44 PM:

Charlie @54:
Until last month, I lived next to a retired (among other things) driving instructor. He told me about a nice scam a man of his acquaintance was running.

He'd speak to people about to take their driving tests, and claim that he was friendly with the examiners in the local test centre. For £20, he'd put in a good word for the candidate with them, and they'd go a little easy during the test. It was very hush-hush, of course, and the candidate shouldn't say anything to the examiner. And if the candidate failed, the guy would even refund the money.

These guys, on the other hand, don't even give refunds.

#73 ::: Yeff ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 02:50 PM:

Clifton's comment in #63 about how concepts are supported only when they are used to support the views of the traditionalists really rang true for me.

I've often noticed hypocrisy in many of the statements of core neo-cons. One example would be an attitude I perceive as: "We (core neo-cons) want less government intrusion in our lives, except where we want *more* government intrusion in *your* lives."

I see the core Machiavellian credo of the current administration heads as concerned with acquiring power (through whatever means), maintaining power and exploiting power to the benefit of the core "traditionalist" constituency.

Since money, priviledge and power are the core of interactions in DC, I don't necessarily expect things to change tremendously even if the Democrats do gain control of the Presidency and both houses. One can hope, but statements from Democratic candidates that others have quoted above can dim that hope.

#74 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 02:56 PM:

Yeff @ #73, the hope I have is that the Democratic party has historically been more responsive to bottom-up complaints than the Republican party. So if enough of us object loudly and vociferously to past practices they might be corrected.

OTOH, I wrote a letter to the Democratic Senator from my state who voted for the FISA expansion a week or ten days ago; I have yet to receive a reply.

#75 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:24 PM:

I just got home from seeing The Invasion, which I found pretty good and smart, actually, copouts and infuriating ending-messages notwithstanding, and my favorite moment in the whole movie was at that point that comes in every version of the story when the pod people (or whatever we should call them now that the pod concept has been done away with) have largely taken over. Nicole Kidman is walking down the street, pretending to be one of them, and a policeman stops her and says "I need to see your ID, ma'am."

#76 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:30 PM:

I wrote three letters in the last round of security theater where Treasury was given everything. Only one of them was answered- by the only republican in the group. The two democrats didn't give me a response. That does not give me confidence in the next administration.

#77 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:44 PM:

A.J. @ #35, what size shoes do you wear? I'll happily loan you my boots
for the purpose. Especially if queue-jumping means you DON'T have to take off your shoes for Security Theater, since it's a good half-hour process for those.

#78 ::: Francis ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 04:14 PM:

I've had it pointed out to me that someone else is using my name. (I don't blame the other Francis - I assume it's his name as well). But I'd prefer it if people tried to keep us separate especially as our political views are somewhat divergant (I'm certainly no species of Libertarian or Thatcherite). To pick me out, my link is (and has always been) http:// neonchameleon. livejournal. com. [Note: Also posting this to POD thread]

#79 ::: Dave Hutchinson ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 04:29 PM:

Two things struck me about the CNN article. The first was that Americans may need internal passports `to picnic in a national park.'
And the second was that the Act was signed into law `as part of an emergency military spending and tsunami relief bill.'
Surely you need to be less worried about the civil liberties aspect of this than the fact that a wave of surrealism is sweeping over the government.

#80 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 04:47 PM:

Max (#68):
Could it be that the real focus of the Bush Administration is just to ensure long-term profits for the right portfolio of corporations?

Of course it is.

If they could, Bushco would hire Boing to paint the sky green and then hire Haliburton to clean it up. Haliburton would do a lousy job, request an extension of their contract and then not bother to finish anyway. They'd subcontract the job out to someone else and pocket the profit.

Meanwhile, Viacom would start a bidding war with Disney for the movie rights to tell the story of the brave men and women who tried to paint the sky green and Sony would do the special effects.

#81 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 05:06 PM:

Francis, may I suggest adding more words to your name? I started as Nancy C because there were other Nancys around, and then added the Mittens to bring it inline with the name on my LJ.

#82 ::: Johnny Foreigner ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 05:24 PM:

if you want a preview of what life with compulsory identification is like, ask an immigrant (legal, illegal, any shade in between). it is not good. it allows bureaucrats to run your life, to tell you what to do and where to live, to judge you and to disrupt your life arbitrarily (one of the freedoms lost to american citizens in the war on immigrants is that of being able to work without identification, not much noticed in the absence i guess.)

compulsory identification facilitates such social controls. america is one of the few places that - as long as you don't want to work, drive, or fly - you can live without any identification whatsoever. as such any crackpot control scheme that relies on enforced and universal identification tends to fail since people can just (in extremis) toss out their identification and walk away.

of course the introduction of a compulsory id isn't itself the beginning of tyranny. it's just dehumanizing, pointless, annoying, and leaves the door open for much worse things. pointing at countries that have compulsory ids and yet remain free is all very well, but i'd say, a. they haven't previously had the computer systems to run a universal surveillance state, b. other compulsory-id states definitely had some tyranny problems facilitated by id, and c. most of those systems are 50-60 years old, not long enough for me to be all that confident that they never will have such problems.

mostly though, it's just a waste of time.

#83 ::: FrancisT ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 05:25 PM:

Francis @78:

Apologies to the other Francis. There are sufficiently few of us that I'm not used to having to differentiate myself. Henceforth I shall be FrancisT following the suggestion of NancyC at #81.

#84 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 05:38 PM:

Is there a list of which states are opposing internal passports?

Graydon, when was it decided that the Constitution only applies to Americans? I'd noticed and been irritated by the assumption that it was completely ok if the US government snoops on foreigners, but I didn't know it was legal doctrine.

#85 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 05:40 PM:

Johnny Foreigner @ 82 one of the freedoms lost to american citizens in the war on immigrants is that of being able to work without identification

Every time you start a new job, you have to complete an I9 form and present proof of citizenship, a government issued photo ID and a Social Security card, even if you're a native-born US citizen. The forms of ID required have changed a bit over the past several years, but the I9 has been in place since at least the mid 80s.

#86 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 05:48 PM:


Anti-RealID laws: Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington.

#87 ::: Iain Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 05:51 PM:

65 Raphael:

It's not entirely clear which aspects of day-to-day German life you are referring to, so forgive me if I misconstrue your point. I just want to say that a friend of mine is passionately opposed to the introduction of a national ID card and identity database in the UK primarily because his grandparents were identified as Jewish through their official German identity documents and subsequently murdered by lawfully-appointed officers of the German government. There are things that it is very dangerous to allow even a benign government to get away with, as their successors might be very different.

#88 ::: Carl Dershem ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 06:26 PM:

Will it be required to use a Prussian accent when thay ask for "Your papers, please."?

#89 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 06:31 PM:

What Iain said.

Raphael, are you aware that the motto of at least one of the founding states of the U. S. is "Live Free or Die"? (New Hampshire.) Some of the others are, "Regnant populus," (Arkansas) "Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain", (Iowa) "Sic semper tyrannis," (Virginia) and "Montani semper liberi." (West Virginia. An early flag of the United States was bright yellow, with a picture of a rattlesnake, and the motto "Don't Tread on Me." The states of this country get all defensive and prickly when they feel the federal government is expanding its authority in directions it should not. This has not always been worthy of praise -- hell, it's been downright disastrous (see the Civil War, Civil Rights, etc.) -- but the impulse to push back against federal intrusion should not be discounted. Especially now.

I've always been fond of the Gadsden flag, despite the secessionists' attempts to appropriate it for their cause...

#90 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 07:02 PM:

I think the bumpersticker should just say, "These aren't the droids you're looking for,"

We all know what it means, but it makes any offended cop look ridiculous in court.

#91 ::: Iain Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 07:11 PM:

It's not an official motto - at least, not yet - but I do try to live by the words Harry Wilcock said in 1952 when refusing to show a policeman his papers: an act that led to the dismantling of the wartime ID card system in Britain:

"I'm a liberal, and I'm against this sort of thing".

#92 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 07:15 PM:

1. "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
- Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

2. "Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?"
Franklin replied, "A republic, if you can keep it."
- At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on September 18, 1787

What would Benjamin Franklin say about the present state of American democracy?

#93 ::: Gag Halfrunt ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 07:38 PM:
Raphael, are you aware that the motto of at least one of the founding states of the U. S. is "Live Free or Die"? (New Hampshire.) Some of the others are, "Regnant populus," (Arkansas) "Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain", (Iowa) "Sic semper tyrannis," (Virginia) and "Montani semper liberi."

John Wilkes Booth is said to have exclaimed 'Sic semper tyrannis' when he shot President Lincoln. I'm relieved to learn that it had been the motto of Virginia since 1776 and wasn't adopted because of Wilkes.

#94 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 08:09 PM:

Somewhere in my house is Stephen Vincent Benet's short story The Devil and Daniel Webster. It's one of my favorite pieces of "patriotic" literature. It's a wonderful piece of short fiction.

Here's how it starts.

It's a story they tell in the border country, where Massachusetts joins Vermont and New Hampshire.

Yes, Dan'l Webster's dead ----- or, at least, they buried him. But every time there's a thunderstorm around Marshfield, they say you can hear his rolling voice in the hollows of the sky. And they say that if you go to his grave and speak loud and clear, "Dan'l Webster ----- Dan'l Webster!" the ground'll begin to shiver and the trees begin to shake. And after a while you'll hear a deep voice saying, "Neighbor, how stands the Union?" Then you better answer the Union stands as she stood, rock-bottomed and copper-sheathed, one and indivisible, or he's liable to rear right out of the ground.

How historically accurate the portrait of Webster is, I can't say -- and it doesn't matter. I recommend the story.

#95 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 08:24 PM:

A.R.Yngve #92: "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
- Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Richard Jackson originated that famous quote. Franklin merely published the book it was in, and popularized the phrase.

#96 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 09:10 PM:

Of course, the best joke in this comedy is yet to come.

Wait until failure to present a Real ID to law enforcement when demanded is grounds for detention. That's when we get to play the game of trying to explain to Police Officer #2 that the reason we don't have our Real ID card is that it was confiscated by Police Officer #1. No further explanation will be either sufficient or necessary at that point: we're going to the hole, and we'll stay there until the Police Department decides to let us out and give us our Real ID card back.

To some extent, as noted above, this happens already to certain classes of immigrant. What Real ID does is extend the opportunity to experience such compelling and thrilling AdventuresInLawEnforcementBureaucracyland™ to everyone.

I'm sure it will be fun for the whole family.

#97 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 09:21 PM:

j h woodyatt: What Real ID does is extend the opportunity to experience such compelling and thrilling AdventuresInLawEnforcementBureaucracyland™ to everyone.

I don't suppose there's any chance that it would be a Choose Your Own AdventureInLawEnforcementBureaucracyland, is there?

#98 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 09:35 PM:

Real ID? How primitive. How 20th Century! I say, let's go for the chip in the neck. If it's good enough for Fifi, it's good enough for Granny.

#99 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 09:38 PM:

Serge, it may start with Granny who suffers from Alzheimers and is prone to wandering. Who'd argue with that? But then...

#100 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 11:35 PM:

Iain Coleman (#87) said: "There are things that it is very dangerous to allow even a benign government to get away with, as their successors might be very different."
Thank you! That's something I've been trying to say to all those people who come up with "you only have to worry if you're doing something wrong". Who will be defining 'wrong' over the next 50 or 100 years, and will you and your friends and relatives and their descendants always be in full agreement with them?

Where to draw the line, and what kind of safeguards to try and cement in, is a problem. Example: a national register of cerebral palsy sufferers is being set up in Australia. There are good reasons for this, that will help them, their families & carers as well as us as a whole. But Dr Asperger is supposed to been reluctant to define his syndrome as a disability ("they'd be good code breakers") because the first group* the Third Reich began legally killing was the physically or mentally disabled. What if in 15 or 20 years our government decides 'spastics' should be used, say, as a source of transplant organs for an aging population?

*In a few decades, who knows whether they'll be the next hate/fear group? Freemasons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Bahá'í, tobacconists, 'degenerate' artists, women's rights activists and astrologers, for instance, either went to concentration camps along with better-known victims, or were persecuted and forbidden to work or create. (One reason Hannah Hoch is a heroine of mine is that she hid a lot of artworks from Nazi 'cleansing'; we hear more of book-burning than the bonfire of entartete Kunst.)

#101 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 01:31 AM:

Dave Hutchinson @ 79

Surrealism? Hardly. That's just politics as usual in the good old US of A. Here you can find the most amazing things in a routine appropriations bill. Sticking completely unrelated riders on random bills is a time-honored tradition in politics here. And since politicians are required to have their senses of irony surgically removed when taking office, none of them ever realize the absurdity of what they're doing.

#102 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 01:37 AM:

A.R. Yngve @ 92

What would Benjamin Franklin say about the present state of American democracy?

In Franklin's case I think you'd do better to ask what he would do about it. This is also a question I've been asking myself a lot lately.

#103 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 01:48 AM:

Nenya @ 48

It's been awhile, and no one else has picked up that question, so I'll attempt at least a partial answer. McCarthy made a critical mistake: he went after someone bigger than he was, before he'd consolidated his earlier victories. He decided to start looking for Commies in the Army, and the Army wasn't interested in playing, so they swatted him. If he'd been smart he'd have tried to make allies in the military first, then used them to bulldoze the civilian parts of the government. Or, given the interservice rivalry of the time, ally with the Army to take on the Navy, or vice versa.

#104 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 03:13 AM:

Bruce C @ #103, I'd forgotten all about the Army-McCarthy hearings! Good grief.

Nenya, here's an account of them from the television historian's perspective.

Here's the text and audio of the most famous exchange that came out of them: "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

As Bruce says, the Army was a bigger institution than some half-drunk Senator from Wisconsin, and it was certainly held in much higher regard.

I recommend reading the first link; it's from the Broadcast Museum, and it's got plenty of detail about network coverage of those hearings. 188 hours! That wouldn't happen again till Watergate.

None of that fully explains the how or why the country "got over it," but it was certainly a tipping point.

#105 ::: FrancisD ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 08:08 AM:

FrancisT @#83

No problem - I'm not used to many others of us around either. I'm switching to FrancisD for the same reason (and following Nancy's suggestion).

#106 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 08:36 AM:

PJ Evans @ 86:

North Carolina isn't on that list, but the legislature has already said they're not allocating any money to implement the RealID government mandates.

ISTM that we've exchanged the "military-industrial complex" for the "security-technological complex". No, wait, we've got both of them now. Arrgh.

#107 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 10:34 AM:

#89: On looking up Massachusetts' state motto, I find that it translates as "By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty". I suppose it could be worse.

#108 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 11:08 AM:

Rhode Island's motto, while a good one, is getting harder and harder for me to live by.


#109 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 02:56 PM:

Mez (100) --

It's always fun, when dealing with a person of the right- wing persuasion, to say something like "I wonder who President Hillary will declare to be Enemy Combatants."

There's invariably a flash of panic behind their eyes ...

#110 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 03:36 PM:

110 comments in under 45 minutes!

Is that a new record?

And if so, what does it mean ...

other than the fact we're all scared and pissed ...

... and not just at the terrorists.

#111 ::: Mikael Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 04:14 PM:

#65 and #87:
As a Swedish citizen currently living in Germany, I have seen two widereaching ID card systems close up. Having a British PhD-advisor has made me realize that the British have a different attitude towards the idea than I do, and reading Bruce Schneier has made me realize the same about the US.

First off, #87: you ask what the actual impact is? In Germany, every citizen carries an Ausweis - an ID card, with, among other things, the legal residence printed on the back. You need this for most major transactions - signing up for accounts of various sorts et.c. - since it is the only way to be able to proceed legally against someone if need be. If you don't have a verified adress, you don't have access to the person.

The intrusion into the private life by this is somewhat tempered by a set of laws and rulings fixing the location of your records geographically: your file(s) lives in your home county, and nowhere else. If someone wants to look you up, they need to travel to your home county and visit the archives there.

In Sweden, as a contrast to both this and the UK and US schemes, we have national IDs, and more importantly, a national Personal Identification Number - composed by birthdate and 4 identifying digits. These are your key to all databases. Again, this is tempered by regulations for data usage. You are, basically, not allowed to register certain types of data in a database (religion and political affiliation belong here) nor merging different databases without a specific permit. It doesn't do away entirely with abuse, but it does slow it down quite a bit.

I think, however, that the main reason that neither Sweden nor Germany has fallen into being a horrible, horrible place to live in the last fifty-odd years is, basically, that the people and the bureaucracy to large extents are used to the system, and not really inclined to abuse it. And this seems to be in stark contrast to at least the situation in the UK, where, according to my advisor and the 80's tv-series "Yes, Prime Minister", the idea seems to be to allow anyone within the civil service complete access to any and all information ever registerable for all citizens and non-citizens ever to submit some sort of information whatsoever anywhere.

#112 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 04:54 PM:

Pedantic peasant @110: if a terrorist is someone who tries to inspire terror for political ends, then yes, we are pissed at the terrorists. Because our leaders and their media sock-puppets fit that definition perfectly. And that broad definition (nothing in it about blowing things up or shooting people: you can be a terrorist by committing a thought crime!) seems to be the one that they themselves are working with.

#113 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 06:23 PM:

As indicated upthread (#91 ::: Iain Coleman), we used to have ID cards in the UK. A major reason they were abolished was because they were abused by the police. Nobody has yet come up with any reason why we should trust that the police would not abuse them again.

One requirement in the intended new system is that you have to register your address and any change of address. A fine of £1,000 was suggested, as I recall, for failure to do so. Wait for the first angry wife-beater to sweet-talk/bribe someone in a local government office into looking up the address that his wife is hiding at (which she has to enter into the system, remember, or get a whopping great fine), find her, and kill her...

And what about the homeless? If you need to have an ID card to get medical services, and you need an address for your ID card, and you don't have an address, how do you go to a doctor?

Then there's the suggestion that the government could start swapping information with the large corporates (supermarkets etc.) who have details from store "loyalty" cards (which I don't hold)...

And I fully agree with the sentiments expressed by Iain Coleman @ 87. Who, indeed, knows what a future government will choose to do with the information.

Then there's the cost, and the likely problems with errors in the system, and the problems an ordinary person will have in getting those fixed. Anyone here NOT read the short story "Computers Don't Argue" (Gordon R. Dickson)?

#114 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 08:02 PM:

"And what about the homeless? If you need to have an ID card to get medical services, and you need an address for your ID card, and you don't have an address, how do you go to a doctor?" (dcb @ 113)

That was my immediate question reading Mikael @111, on his description of the German Ausweis. Do homeless or itinerant (constantly travelling) people have a sort of 'holding' address, or what happens?

Does anyone know if there's much pressure for, say, remote access to the German records, or for merging of different Swedish databases, in the interests either of "efficiency" or "fighting terrorism"?

#115 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 08:37 PM:

Of course, since the documents are "required for passage", a technical failure means "nobody moves except by the Personal Judgement of An Official". They're making lemonade out of the brittleness of the technical infrastructure. An EMP attack means their people have absolute control.

#116 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 08:52 PM:

Charlie Stross @ 122

Pedantic peasant @110: if a terrorist is someone who tries to inspire terror for political ends, then yes, we are pissed at the terrorists. Because our leaders and their media sock-puppets fit that definition perfectly. And that broad definition (nothing in it about blowing things up or shooting people: you can be a terrorist by committing a thought crime!) seems to be the one that they themselves are working with.

Curses to the fact there is no (or I don't know) a code for sarcasm in text posts.

I agree completely.

My post was essentially intended to point out how quickly -- under 40 minutes! -- the thread broke 100 messages.

My question was sarcastic and rhetorical, pointing out that (as others had pointed out earlier in the thread -- many of the administrations actions can be counted as homegrown or internal terrorism, and that based on response volume, it appeared we were madder at that than so many other things.

Sorry to be unclear.

#117 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 09:02 PM:

Didn't it take 2 days for it to break 100 messages? Did you perhaps misread a 16 as an 18, or vice versa?

#118 ::: Nomie ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 09:39 PM:

Lizzy L @94 mentions "The Devil and Daniel Webster"; what looks like the full text is available online. (NB: I haven't encountered it before, so I don't know if this is complete. Also there is a hideously colored background.)

#119 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 10:04 PM:

And curses again.

As Clifton Royston points out in 117 I am the victim of being calendar lost and a bad RSS posting --

My homepage cued it as a new link one minute old,
And I thought the date looked right, only the time was closer to 1/2 hour

Sorry all

#120 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 10:44 PM:

#118: I found another, more tasteful and possibly more readable, site with the text of the story.

I'd also recommend the movie (available on DVD from Criterion). It's been a stable resident of my personal top 10 films list since the first time I saw it, and has a few surprisingly intense and creepy passages.

#121 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 02:14 AM:

dcb @ 113

It's time for my unrealistic optimism exercise hour, so I'll see your Gordon Dickson and raise a Poul Anderson, specifically "Sam Hall". The single biggest weakness of government computer systems (aside from the fact that they rarely work properly) is that the government computer workers are not usually the best in the business, and if they piss off a good enough hacker, they might regret that. And if the government guys are really good and they get pissed off ...

David Harmon @ 115

An EMP attack is likely to cripple all their systems and make them incapable of doing anything. Not being well-designed or -built, government computer systems and the processes they support are not really robust in the face of failures, and they usually aren't smart enough to have fail-safes or fallbacks. Most government installations can't even institute good data storage security, or password generation policies. Hell, a lot of them aren't even smart enough to keep up to date on software security upgrades.

#122 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 08:01 AM:

Nenya@48 et seq: Bruce Cohen and Linkmeister point to the Army hearings, but IMO having them on network TV, and having network TV calmly making the case that McCarthy was a thug and a liar followed by the Senate censuring him, made hysteria unrespectable. Today the networks blindly repeat the Presidential lies, enough of the House is either willing to go to extremes in his support or unwilling to block those extremes, and it's all covered on an egghead channel, so there's no counterforce to the insanity. Even saying "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" has become recast as "letting the terrorists win" in the mainstream -- the recognition that the terrorists win as long as we're terrified has been shouted down.

Also, McCarthy was using pure vaporscare -- the claims that 253 State Department employees were communists meant nothing to people who didn't have any real idea what State could mis-do ("losing" a country on the other side of the world was too abstract), and the Army had stopped and even thrown back the screaming yellow hordes, so claiming it was undermined by Communists wasn't plausible. (My first draft argued that Korea wasn't relevant, but I wasn't thinking about the Army hearings as key.) 9/11 was visible damage, with continuing publicity (fights over building and memorial architecture, victim and rescuer compensation, ...) making the hysteria much harder to dismiss. Also (cf. Charlie@54), IIRC there were no businesses benefitting from his scare tactics -- AFAIK there weren't even any significant threats to pull advertising money when Murrow took on McCarthy, and if there were they were ignored.

A problem that anyone opposing security theater faces is that fear is a reaction at an unreasoning level -- perhaps not solely the subconscious, but one that works faster than the reasoning mind and substantially out of its control. cf Blindsight (one of this year's Hugo nominees), which argues that consciousness itself is ultimately a failure because it considers instead of reacting; the author (IMO) doesn't explain how fast reaction gets you to spaceflight, or even simpler pleasures that we take for granted (refrigeration, antibiotics, ...). I can't swear that the ruling classes have consciously decided that consciousness is wasted on the masses, but it would explain a lot. (I'd dream of them slowly losing their pleasures as the number of thinking people drops below the level needed to sustain those pleasures, but that will probably take a very long time.)

#123 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 11:58 AM:

Though I've been reading most of this discussion with despair at The Way Things Are, it also occurred to me that a certain level of bureaucratic interference would mess up commerce (and crowd already overcrowded prisons) to the extent that society might collapse -- to the extreme *inconvenience* of the plutocrats and powermongers themselves. If you can't reach the K-Mart one state over, you can't buy anything there, and if the masses can no longer afford plane rides who is going to profit on casual tourism? Etc. I suppose entire neighborhoods could become prison camps, but even then commerce would suffer. [Just the thoughts of a non-economist, asking for responses from those who know a lot more than I do.]

#124 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 12:23 PM:

Faren Miller writes: " also occurred to me that a certain level of bureaucratic interference would mess up commerce (and crowd already overcrowded prisons) to the extent that society might collapse."

Alas, there are few historical examples of societies failing outright from this kind of stupidity. (When societies collapse, it's usually because of a cultural failure to find a sustainable method of interacting with their environment, c.f. Jared Diamond's book.)

Mostly, comparatively open societies that go down this road just degenerate further and further until, one day, the only thing left of their openness is the national myth holding their fascist impulse together. I could name the examples that come to mind, but that would just piss off the red-blooded Americans who don't like such comparisons.

#125 ::: Kurt Francis ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 03:08 PM:

This is absolutely unacceptable. I was uncomfortable with the designation of the Department of Homeland Security from the very start, as the use of the word "Homeland" seemed way too close to the Nazis' misuse of the term "Fatherland" (to use but one example).

States are "free" not to comply with so-called "Real ID" standards -- but if they don't, then their citizens have to show PASSPORTS to board DOMESTIC flights and even to go to a national park???

One of my concerns is minor to most people, but a real concern to the relatively few Americans who live abroad, as I do. How am I supposed to comply with these regulations? It has already become a nightmare to renew a passport and even more of a nightmare to replace one lost or stolen, all due to 9/11. (Not that this is entirely unreasonable, I hasten to add. The federal government does need to be careful about this stuff.)

I'm getting pretty nervous about the intrusiveness of the government into our individual daily lives. I certainly have little faith in federal employees charged with protecting my information (or any other government employees at any level, for that matter). I'm quite willing to submit to procedures to ensure I am who I say I am, such as fingerprinting and retina scans. But those procedures don't require a record, say, of my religious denomination, if any, favorite beer, etc. etc. etc. -- which is the direction we're moving.

I lived in mainland China during the 1980's, and this sort of stuff sure reminds me of my life there. At least there the snooping was so crude as to be blatantly obvious -- stuff like the eavesdroppers on telephone lines rather stupidly having microphones that allowed me to hear what was going on in their office! But U.S. authorities are light years beyond that sort of blatantness. Perhaps unfortunately.


#126 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 05:28 PM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) @ 121

I'll have to go brush up on my Poul Anderson. I could do with a dose of optimism on the situation.

#127 ::: oldsma ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 05:50 PM:

Better yet, you'll need to have RealID to get into any federal building.

So ...

If you don't have RealID, you can't get into the Post Office, so you can't apply for a passport there or mail in the application for one. You can't register for the draft, which is a legal obligation for some people. You can't pick up registered mail. You can't pick up tax forms in person. You can't mail in paper tax returns. You can't report crimes to the FBI, sort out problems with your Social Security account, or make equal opportunity/discrimination complaints. You can't serve on federal juries or grand juries, or testify in such cases.

Plus, not all "federal buildings" are really federal buildings. Many federal offices are in leased space in buildings with other organizations. So (to pick an example down the street), since CNN shares space with the Department of Education, you would not be able to blow a whistle there without using your RealID.

I know you could do some of those things in more roundabout ways or you could get in via computer. But still ...

Hijinks ensue.


#128 ::: oldsma ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 06:19 PM:

myself @ 127

I'm dopeslapping myself for posting with a migraine. I was not clear at all. The Post Office provides secondary ways to apply for passports and get tax forms. The RealID would be an obstacle to getting forms from an IRS office or for going into Passport Bureau offices to apply in person; blocking the Post Office as well would block the backup.

I'm going to stop trying to think or produce language now.


#129 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 06:36 PM:


There's alternate ways of getting tax forms, too: you can call them and have them sent to you. (I think they'll have to make exceptions for post offices, but the problems may need to be pointed out with a two-by-four.)

#130 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 07:05 PM:

Some branch libraries in Hawaii offer passport application forms, and a smaller set of them even offers aid in filling them out (or did; budgets being what they tend to be for library personnel, who knows?).

#131 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 10:42 PM:

You can just download tax forms. At least for the US and VA. The US forms are the kind that let you fill them out online so you can print them out legibly.

#132 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 09:48 AM:

j h woodyatt (@96): Wait until failure to present a Real ID to law enforcement when demanded is grounds for detention.

In France, that's one of the big complaints youth got against the police. Young ? Not at least middle class looking ? Not white ? Forgot your ID card ? Lose up to one day of your life in the closest detention center, time for the situation to get clarified.
I must confess though I should go and have a look at actual statistics, because you always hear tales of that, but I actually know only of one case of such detentions. And that's coming from someone who used to squat public parking buildings to play Civilization with friends (Strange, I've come to notice, how vocal some people can be about youth "prowling in the streets", yet how no one in position of authority seem willing to lend an empty room once a week for cultural activities when said youth repeatedly come asking...).
I guess the occurences would probably be strongly concentrated on so-called sensitive zones (no pun, please...

dcb (@113): And what about the homeless? If you need to have an ID card to get medical services, and you need an address for your ID card, and you don't have an address, how do you go to a doctor?

Well, again, in France, that's one of the main thresholds of the descent into misery, the time you lose an adress to use. Can't get a job or even some state helps without one. Can't get one without a job or some state help.
Most people seem comfortably unaware of how fast and easy the slide can get.

When I helped with community services I saw people who had lived their lives on a daily basis without any kept administrative records, nor any understanding of how things actually worked around them, and were found totally unprepaired to deal with the sudden loss of an address, the only actual administrative link they had to keep them afloat into the machinery, when they were driven out of where they lived (sometimes even when laws would have allowed them to stay in to the detriment of their landlords).
I guess the worst when dealing with such people was the mean part of me screaming "Oh god, they deseve what they got" while trying to help.

I know, I'm going out of the ID card problem and into something larger.

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