Month: January 2008 (Page 1 of 3)
"Obedience to lawful authority is the foundation of manly character."
- (Confederate) General Robert E. LeeIs this a joke? If it isn't, Arlington County apparently expects me to prominently display a sticker on my car featuring that quote. Serving as the background to this quote is a waving American flag, with the Pentagon superimposed. Are you )(*&@#ing kidding me? Now, a bit of background for the 99.5% of my readers not living in Arlington. Arlington County residents pay a property tax on their cars every year, and a decal is issued as evidence of payment of this tax. These decals are placed in the center of the windshield of the car. The Arlington County Treasurer, some number of years ago, decided to hold a competition for the yearly design change. Local high school students submit proposed designs, and then (I believe) Arlington residents who bother to send in a ballot from the Arlington Sun-Gazette or go to the Treasurer's website vote on it. Some years this yields a rather ugly result, other years it's fine. This is the current sticker, featuring the new Air Force Memorial. Nice enough. I find this new design unbelievable on a number of levels, including the fact that it actually garnered the most votes from Arlington residents. I'm going to choose to believe that those voting for it simply couldn't read the quote, and just liked the American flag and Pentagon (which is located in Arlington). That's ugly, but fine. But what in the world made Arlington Treasurer Frank O'Leary think that a design featuring a Confederate general's quote about submitting to authority with the flag and Pentagon in the background is appropriate for Arlington? Sure, the final designs were voted on by Arlington residents, but the pool of finalists was selected by his office in the first place. That quote - which, by the way, comes from here - is something you'll never see on my car. I - and I hope you, if you live in Arlington - will be in touch with Mr. O'Leary soon. Note:
Through the quarter-century in which China has been opening to world trade, Chinese leaders have deliberately held down living standards for their own people and propped them up in the United States. This is the real meaning of the vast trade surplus—$1.4 trillion and counting, going up by about $1 billion per day—that the Chinese government has mostly parked in U.S. Treasury notes. In effect, every person in the (rich) United States has over the past 10 years or so borrowed about $4,000 from someone in the (poor) People’s Republic of China. Like so many imbalances in economics, this one can’t go on indefinitely, and therefore won’t. But the way it ends—suddenly versus gradually, for predictable reasons versus during a panic—will make an enormous difference to the U.S. and Chinese economies over the next few years, to say nothing of bystanders in Europe and elsewhere.It's incredibly hard not to quote the whole thing. In short, China affects the daily lives of Americans, and America affects the daily lives of the Chinese. The Chinese are beginning to understand this, but Americans seem blissfully ignorant (if not of the relationship, then definitely the possibly consequences). Seriously, take 15 minutes and give this a read. And then send the link to your friends.
Photo: The (decidedly privileged) Bund, Shanghai, 2004
- It's a completely unnecessary invasion of my privacy. The REAL ID Act requires that my driver's license contain machine readable biometric details, residential address, and hi-res picture of me. While my local DMV has a perfectly legitimate interest in having my details and address, the doorman to the Federal Trade Commission most certainly does not. And today's rules make it clear that in order to enter any Federal building in 2014, the doorman will get those details. Further, before a REAL ID can be issued, the DMV will need to verify your birth certificate with the original issuing authority. Not so hard to do for me, perhaps, but my father? Not likely. And if someone else has used your Social Security number? Be prepared for a thorough government investigation into your identity.
- It creates one stop shopping for identity theft. Think not? Ask 25 million Britons how they feel about that. Sure, you can suffer from identity theft now, but there is no single repository that contains as much information about citizens as there would be in a post-REAL ID world.
- This is yet another industry-generated "security problem" in search of an industry-generated solution in the form of massive government contracts. Like so many other ineffective and pointless schemes to "keep us safe", much of the impetus behind the REAL ID Act can be traced to the companies that would provide the technology and services to implement it. Digimarc (reaching beyond the DRM mines it has mastered) has latched onto the REAL ID Act, spending $350k to lobby for implementation of the REAL ID Act. And that was just in the first half of 2007. Further, the cost to state governments to implement the Act is massive. Oh, and remember that rule about showing REAL ID to get into a Federal building in 2014? Well, that's only if you're 50 or younger. Clearly a system focused on safety, eh?
- Once this universal identity system is in place, it is ripe for expansion and abuse. This, by far, is my biggest problem with a national ID. I think we've got some pretty awful historical lessons in the abuses governments are capable of when they can clearly identify members of a given minority or collect and store information on individual citizens. Further, looking forward, I think there's a real risk of limiting your access to communications and travel, depending on your identity. Don't believe me? As far as DHS is concerned right now, unless you get one of these IDs, you'll not be able to board a plane in 2014. And just wait until the MPAA/RIAA start convincing Congress that the way to cut down on piracy (and keep our children safe!) is requiring that everyone use their REAL IDs to log in when using the Internet.
- Well, you can learn more about the REAL ID Act and its impact. I hope I've given a good summary of the risks here, but many organizations have put a lot of work into summarizing and analyzing the impact. I recommend checking out EPIC's and the ACLU's REAL ID sites.
- You can urge your Senators and Representative to repeal the act. EFF makes that very easy, with this tool.
- You can urge your state to reject the REAL ID Act. In doing so, it would be joining 17 other states that have passed anti-REAL ID legislation. The results range from simply urging the Federal gov't to repeal the act, to outright declarations that a state will not comply with the act. What's happening in your state? Find out here. If you live in Virginia, you can urge your delegate to work with Del. Chris Peace (R-97) to improve HJ42.