Saturday, August 25, 2007


The laws of probability dictate that even the whack jobs and the conspiracy theorists get it at least partially right now and again, more or less in the same way that a broken clock is right twice a day. Thus it is with a certain broadly derided blogger who expresses reservations regarding the RealID act - RealID is a bad thing, though for completely different reasons (and much more rational ones) than she cites.

RealID creates a National Identification Card via devious means, inflicting an massive unfunded mandate enforced with punitive measures against the non-compliant upon the states to create a standardized identification card out of their former drivers license programs and generates four main rational arguments against itself, with a plethora of lesser arguments in opposition.

Cost leaps out right away as an issue for all those who understand the notion of TANSTAAFL - the bills must be paid, and given the distinct lack of a National ID fairy flitting about the landscape dispersing nine figure sums of cash, the burden will fall almost entirely on the already cash-strapped states - to the tune of 120 million dollars a year, on average. Financially alone, RealID is a very bad notion. One reason that 17 states have passed legislation barring participation in the RealID scheme.

States Rights. Once the trite and discredited creed of apologists for the Old South, more and more folks in the West and the unfallen Northern states have hearkened to the old call in recognition that a dynamic tension and division of powers between and amongst the states and the federal centrist government is fundamental to preserving the basic freedom and diversity that allows each state to screw things up in it's own unique fashion (allowing fifty potential chances to get things right) as opposed putting all our national interests in the single basket of a top-down national government. RealID is a hefty step forward towards that top-down hierarchical structure of a national government simply instructing subordinate bodies.

Privacy. Because of the structure of the proposed RealID program wherein RFID chips with weak encryption are utilized carrying key personal data, a broad array of private and governmental misconduct becomes possible including enhanced opportunities for identity theft, improved stalking opportunities, indiscriminate commercial/private/governmental tracking of location/transactions/etc, and a fundamental breakdown in the concept of privacy (barring a warrant) from governmental and other intrusion. This does not even begin to contemplate the inevitable database intrusions and inadvertent (and occasionally malicious) data exposures.

From our beginning as a nation, a fundamental tenet of our national conversation is that we are all innocent until proven guilty in a court of law - accompanied by the equally important tenet that we are, in lieu of due legal process, secure in our papers and belongings. RealID reverses all this when, unless we take deeply inconvenient and questionably legal steps, our every move through life is tracked directly or through inference and maintained in massive national databases available to any schmo of a clerk in some organization trying to look busy.

For a particularly painful example, let us contemplate our lives as gun owners. I choose, because I have a dear friend in NYC, to visit dear friend. No problem thus far. However, the NYC Mayor, being a non-fan of private firearms ownership has implemented a plan to ensure his cities safety from bad thoughts.

He has instructed NYPD to implement a search of all incoming passengers data against the national databases containing CCW licenses, ammunition purchases, and firearms purchases in the last twenty years. Having bought a nice .45 LC revolver in the last year, and shooting it regularly, and made these purchases using my visa soon as I board my plane in Portland, I'm targeted for a *very special greeting* from NY's finest on landing at La Guardia.

You can do wonderful things with data, just like any other tool, but you can also misuse data manipulation in direct proportion to the potential benefit.

Oh, those 17 states? They cover the political spectrum. Try Tennessee, South Carolina, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, North Dakota, Washington, Montana, Arkansas, Idaho, Maine. (Courtesy of the Epic website.)

By the way - MYOB is "mind your own business". My government doesn't *need* to know what I own, where I travel, or to have the authority to deny me the right to travel until such time as they can get a judge to go along with the deal in public. Nor does any government I'm terribly comfortable with supporting. MYOB. (MYOB isn't mine...for it's origin, look to Eric F. Russell and "Then there were none".)

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