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Dec./Jan. '02 Articles:

Beyond the Bombs

The War on Weed

Notes from the Cultural Wasteland

The K Chronicles

Overpriced Musings:
I.D. Implications

Govt. Fiddles While Species Die Off

Homeland Headache

The Muddlemarch: 1

The Muddlemarch: 2

(music reviews)

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art/Marty Kelley

Where Are YOUR Papers?

Once upon a time, there was a political party in Germany that decided that there was a group of people that they could do without. Their first step toward the eventual annihilation of six million of them was to propagandize them as carriers of disease, or as dangerous subversives. The next step was to establish a national classification system, which required everyone to carry papers indicating to which demographic they belonged. Police could check these papers on demand. Once their undesirables were properly identified, a systematic takeover of their property began. They were disarmed, threatened with incarceration or death if their weapons were not turned in, and finally slaughtered on a scale never before seen in human history.

Thankfully, in recent decades, the call for a national identification system in the United States has been well in the periphery of society. In 1971, the Social Security Administration task force on the Social Security Number rejected plans to extend the SSN to the status of a national ID card. The Federal Advisory Committee on False Identification again rejected it in 1976. The Carter, Reagan, and Clinton administrations repeatedly stated their opposition to a national ID. Besides, our state-issued driver licenses are already a de facto national ID, as they are accepted as adequate identification for federal agencies.

But now we've got a new problem. The American population has become stark raving mad because of the events of September that few were psychologically prepared to deal with. "Terrorists" are the new group of undesirables, and in order to weed them out, the debate about a central database for national identification has once again been pushed into the spotlight. Scarily, a poll released by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press in the week following the attacks suggests that 7 of 10 Americans now support the creation of a national ID card. And this time, the forces of evil want to do it right, employing technologies that are summarized by our new word for the day: biometrics. These include the collection of fingerprints, retina scans or other unique identifiers that only you can carry in your body. These biometrics will link you to a federal database containing demographic information about you, and likely a great many other private tidbits.

Larry Ellison--the horribly misguided fool who happened to become CEO of Oracle, one of the world's leading software companies--has offered to assist the federal government in devising the national ID card system, even offering the use of his company's software at no charge. Ellison contends that any privacy we may lose has already been lost, shrugging off any notion that a national ID system will force us to surrender our rights. Says Ellison in an interview with KPIX-TV in San Francisco:

"This privacy you're concerned about is largely an illusion. All you have to give up is your illusions, not any of your privacy. Right now, you can go onto the Internet and get a credit report about your neighbor and find out where your neighbor works, how much they earn and if they had a late mortgage payment and tons of other information."

Ellison has provided details about his proposed system, which he claims will be voluntary. People will be allowed to refuse the card, but will be subject to a more rigorous search while traveling. This reminds me of the second-class oppression of the speedy-pay systems on the highways, where we get to voluntarily wait behind the rest of the people paying with cash to avoid our movements being tracked by a database. Not that many people notice that going on either.

Larry Ellison and Oracle have been designing databases for almost thirty years. One of his first customers was the Central Intelligence Agency. Where the hell was Larry when we still had our privacy?

Once again, the multitudes join the call with their half-witted professions of squeaky-clean innocence. "Oh, I'm a law-abiding citizen, what do I have to lose?" is the cry of the mainstream ignoramus. Listen, the government promised us -- promised, pinky swore to God. -- that the Social Security Act forbidding the use of the SSN for unrelated purposes would be adhered to upon its inception. And then they took a big dump on our heads over the next fifty years, ignoring it and allowing the SSN to be in nearly every corporation's database known to computer-kind. The government abuses its power. All governments, every government.

A great many civil libertarians are actually flocking to the side of Ellison and his information-gathering Gestapo. Even civil rights expert Alan Dershewitz is backing the idea, and that is when you know that mass insanity has stricken your country.

On the other hand, a more hopeful statement about ID cards posted on the web site of the American Civil Liberties Union says, "A national ID card would essentially serve as an internal passport. It would create an easy new tool for government surveillance and could be used to target critics of the government, as has happened periodically throughout our nation's history."

Here are the important questions. Do you think any of this identification technology is going away after the "terrorists" are gone, and the world is once again safe for everyone? Do you think this is going to remain a voluntary system? Do you think this godforsaken species has a chance at saving itself from repeating history? Tune in next year for the answers. It's coming, and fast. And this time, there will be no alliances in the world powerful enough to stop it.

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