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May 16, 2006


It's at times like this I wish I knew more about what would be required to make a charge of treason stick : especially since the term is being thrown around so freely towards any obstructor or critic encountered by the "Reign of Error".


'Why don't you take the threat seriously?' they ask.

'The people in charge aren't, why should I?'

Besides, Hilzoy might want to stop and think about the fact that she's agreeing with President Bush on ID cards.


I've lived in three countries for an extended period as a foreigner where identity cards are required, and I have to admit, the fuss seems a lot more visceral rather than logical. A couple of points.

A national ID card has to be used, it can't merely sit in the pocket until it is necessary to be called for because of a particular crisis. It seems to me that if a national id card were coupled with a true national health plan, this might be the way to go.

One of the advantages of a National ID card is that it systematizes the information that is collected and known. The unavoidable point is that more and more information is going to be collected by companies and government and as those databases are able to communicate with each other, only those who are incredibly bloody minded about their privacy are going to be able to avoid it. Far better to have some sort of agreement on the set of information that is to be made available and for what purposes (this is something that Hilzoy touched on in the previous post) I'm not particularly happy about supporting something even peripherally linked to George Bush, but the current situation makes it certain that I really don't know how much other people know about me.

From Bush's speech:

A key part of that system should be a new identification card for every legal foreign worker. This card should use biometric technology, such as digital fingerprints, to make it tamper-proof. A tamper-proof card would help us enforce the law and leave employers with no excuse for violating it. And by making it harder for illegal immigrants to find work in our country, we would discourage people from crossing the border illegally in the first place.
Find the flaws in the logic! (One start is reading up on what's problematic about "biometric" and "unforgeable" and then proceeding to the implications of the national database necessary. Non-obvious is what's important.)

I'm reminded of New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, who I guess will go down in history as the "gay governor." I'm not sure if history will recall that the real scandal which led to his resignation was that he installed an utterly unqualified individual (allegedly, his gay lover) as the state's well-paid head of homeland security. Gay, straight, I don't care; allegedly had an extramarital affair, I don't care; but it really pissed me off that of all the cushy state jobs he could have given out as a "favor," he chose a homeland security position, a job where competence and only competence should be the guidepost. It's like putting your campaign chairman, or a horse-breeding lawyer, in charge of the federal agency that responds to disasters. Utterly inexcusable.

Still, the tenor is set at the top; and I have never seen any evidence that the Republicans in charge of this country see homeland security as a serious issue. Homeland security dollars are just a new kind of pork to Congress; a special kind of pork, that automatically gets approved because who would want to vote against homeland security funding?

When Mayor Bloomberg said in his speech at the last Republican convention that homeland security funding should be distributed based solely on threat level - as opposed to the present, pork-based system where Wyoming gets seven times the per capital funding as the target of the last terrorist attack, New York - you could have heard a pin drop. In fact, they almost didn't let him give his speech because he planned to make that remark. Allocating funds based on threat level? A completely unacceptable proposition to the Republican Party.

And as the Republicans cut taxes again and again, we hear repeatedly that there is no money to implement such basic measures as checking more than 5% of incoming cargo containers at our ports for dangerous materials or WMDs. The nuts and bolts of actually making the country safer, those things don't get you any votes, so they're not worth worrying about.

Maybe if someone had thought to suggest a photo-op with President Bush inspecting a cargo container to see if it contained illegal Mexicans, we could have sold them on that initiative. Maybe...

Japonicus, at least part of the opposition to such things in the US is the fear that we'd end up with, well, an administration like this, who'd use the info badly.

Sure, I accept that. But what bothers me is the refusal to do something like this creates a situation where one doesn't really know how much information anyone has and who has it. But you are right, given the current administration, it is definitely not the time to be considering what information we want to give. But hopefully, when adults take charge again, some sort of understanding about what data should be held by the government will be arrived at.

Well, they told us for 30 years that government is evil and incompetent and corrupt, and damned if they didn't go out and prove it.

J. Thullen - I think the fustercluck that is the current administration stems in very large part from anti-government ideology. If you don't believe the government can do anything right, why even try? If government is a tedious irrelevance, appointing cronies to high office is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

The Democrats need to focus on effective government - it's not a catchy campaign slogan, but if they ever get power making government work smoothly and efficiently should be priority #1. Doing so undermines the core ideology of the anti-government right, not to mention being the right thing to do.

To be fair, this sort of thing has ALWAYS happened, even with national security projects. There's a famous story about how the Manhattan Project ended up in Oak Ridge for its first phase -- basically, the chairman of the Senate committee that had to agree to release funds in secret was the senior Senator from Tenessee.

The problem is not that the senior people use their clout to favor their constituents -- of course they do; arguably, it's their job to do that. The problem is that they do so in ways that actively impede the achievement of the national goal. Oak Ridge may not have been the most convenient place to put the atomic research lab, but I never heard that it was especially bad either (inacessible, yes, but the security boffins were delighted about that). If this story is correct, however, there is no way to use Corbin for this purpose.

hz, I think you are right about the port worker part of the card-as utility concept, but; but history depicts many signs of peril when travel is part of the construct of needing a PIN to cross thresholds; designing software for that, which safeguards bill of rights concerns as well, may be part of the delay in the rollout.

Additionally, in the following I try to link the concept to all the other cards and accounts we maintain, and, therein, I reply to three recent diaries of yours; please excuse where it encompasses slightly off-thread but similar issues.

The id card is a difficult and very nuanced proposition. As LJ, above, having lived in an id card nation a while, I demur: the net effect is repressive; native citizens there bemusedly bemoaned the fact that as a foreigner I had a passport but was in a different database.

Now we have the emergence into the public knowledge sector a new recognition of what mining databases actually is. Ad and marketing people, and economists, have dealt with this for years, since the desktop workstation became capable of housing chips that would crunch data on that scale, and software appeared with an intuitive format to configure the mining of the data ore.

I posit that many of the same individuals who are aghast at the unregulated development of ten million people all dialup calls lists and datamining thereon, also when asked to evaluate the simplicity of having a national id card, or any kind of pass card with PIN, are inclined to think of the card as a desirable convenience.

Oversight would help ameliorate abuse, but in the current environment there is little trust that would be effective, given an administration that seemingly monthly is revealed to have secret programs doing the opposite of what spokespersons are saying; and the persistent denials by the same spokespersons even after proofs appear in global media that the programs in fact were doing what government denials insisted they would never contemplate.

Not that this is unique to US government; rather, it is endemic to the halls of power; which is why our constitution, and the three branches of government it sustains, is key.

Over at a Yale discussion group a respected constitutional law professor is declaring the constitution needs to be revised to make amending it more facile. This is precisely the wrong moment in history to open the heart of our institutional construct to short sighted meddling.

One supposes the theory is matters will get worse until we revise the founding document; that, like peak oil, we have arrived at some kind of peak government responsibility. I am not sure I subscribe to that, either. Instead, I think we are ready for leadership; and the cybersphere is providing a useful way to develop that.

Speaking Of Identity Cards...

Revelation 13:16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
Revelation 13:17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
Revelation 13:18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six. (666)

I think we can avoid that by putting the ID chip on our left hand.

Anyway, I think the plan would be for each of us to have a *different* number. Might get a bit confusing if we're all assigned 666.

I think we can avoid that by putting the ID chip on our left hand.

That's sinister.

"But what bothers me is the refusal to do something like this creates a situation where one doesn't really know how much information anyone has and who has it."

This is a feature, not a bug.

Centralization of information is the danger. Not the solution.

Transparency of where information ownership lies, on the other hand, is good. And if that's what you were trying to say, LJ, I agree with you.

But centralization of information in a master data bank is a horrible idea; maybe that's not part of what you were suggesting.

On the other hand, as usual, although I have a number of disagreements with David Brin, some quite strong, I do commend his writings on

Hmm, something went wrong there. On transparency and privacy.

"...and, therein, I reply to three recent diaries of yours...."

You've been spying on Hilzoy's diaries?


"Anyway, I think the plan would be for each of us to have a *different* number. Might get a bit confusing if we're all assigned 666."

But perhaps the notion could be worked into the upcoming remake of The Prisoner.

"Who is Number One!?"

"You are, Number Six Six Six."

After all, that'll make the show three times better than the original, won't it?

Okay, back to using preview. Sorry.

"Anyway, I think the plan would be for each of us to have a *different* number. Might get a bit confusing if we're all assigned 666."

Tsk, Gary. How could you forget this?

Spike: Whatcha doin', love?

Dru: I'm naming the stars.

Spike: You can't see the stars, love. That's the ceiling. Also it's day.

Dru: No, I can see them. But I've named them all the same name, and there's terrible confusion.

Hands-down my favorite Dru moment in the series, and maybe my favorite moment of televised madness ever.

The reference that leapt to my mind was Monty Python's Bruces:


Fourth Bruce: Gentlemen, I'd like to introduce a man from Pommyland who is joinin' us this year in the Philosophy Department at the University of Wooloomooloo.

EveryBruce: G'day!

Michael Baldwin: Hello.

Fourth Bruce: Michael Baldwin, Bruce. Michael Baldwin, Bruce. Michael Baldwin, Bruce.

First Bruce: Is your name not Bruce?

Michael: No, it's Michael.

Second Bruce: That's going to cause a little confusion.

Third Bruce: Mind if we call you "Bruce" to keep it clear?

Same here, kenB. Then came George Foreman's sons: Why did you name all of your sons GEORGE?

George Foreman: In boxing, you have to save money and you have to prepare for memory loss. I wanted to make sure I didn't forget anybody's name.

As LJ, above, having lived in an id card nation a while, I demur: the net effect is repressive; native citizens there bemusedly bemoaned the fact that as a foreigner I had a passport but was in a different database.

Perhaps I'm just resigning myself to my own situation, but it does seem to me that for some of the things that people want, like a national health system, we have to accept some sort of national id. The fact that driver's license and SS# have become a defacto id, and the ability of companies to amass a lot of data about you suggests that it is unavoidable in some form. That it goes into a central data base, well, making it go into 50 locations and then syncing them up is a computationally trivial task, so I don't think that security by obsfucation is really an option.

I realize that the option to 'go off the grid', whether or not it is realized, is one of the things that makes Americans what they are, but there seems to be a certain inevitability to some form of national id. In Japan, because there are precise databases of who lives where, determining casualties after a natural disaster is much easier, and work to integrate and update such databases took on new urgency after the Kobe earthquake. Looking at Katrina, and seeing them discover more bodies 1 year after, I think that a lot of people from countries with national databases, are wondering (as I begin to now) why there is not something in place.

This is not an argument saying we have to do something, this more an argument saying something like this in inevitable, so fighting tooth and nail against it might be like Canute ordering the tide to halt.

George Bush is the real Anti-Christ. What a better way for the anti-Christ to do it, but as a born-again! It was the perfect disguise.

The first aspect according to Jeremiah 51:59-64 is the literal geographical city of ancient Babylon which has been rebuilt by Saddam Hussein and now stands for the time being at its original location in Iraq.
By that which is revealed in Jer. 50:18-20 & 51:19-24 we know that the destruction of Babylon must take place at its original location during these last days before Israel's restoration to God and while Israel is still a military power to be feared.
Babylon's destruction, according to Jer. Chapters 50 & 51, will be accomplished by many nations among which will include Israel. This would indicate that geographical Babylon will be destroyed at some time in the near future and not during the Tribulation Period when Israel's military might will be broken and she will become prey for the Anti-Christ.
The second manifestation of Babylon to be destroyed will be the sacrilegious last days seat of her ancient harlot religion. The fall of this great city, where her prostituted teachings are centralized, will transpire at approximately the middle of the final 7 years before the mark and worship of the Anti-Christ are fully initiated according to Rev. 14:8-11.
It will be at this time that the harlot's days of glory and authority will be finally ended. What remains will then be incorporated into the kingdom of the Anti-Christ.
The harlot's destruction is accomplished by a ten king alliance who serve the Anti-Christ according to Rev. 17:16-18.
We are given detailed exposition of the last day's Babylonian harlot which has, according to Rev. 17:6, a bloodthirsty nature. She is found to have intoxicated herself from the blood of the martyrs of Jesus which makes her a defiled institution existing since the time the Church of Jesus Christ was founded.
Along with the enjoyment she derives from destroying true believers we are told that she is a mysterious, bejeweled and extravagantly draped harlot whose wealth is astounding.


Perhaps I'm just resigning myself to my own situation, but it does seem to me that for some of the things that people want, like a national health system, we have to accept some sort of national id.

Though we have a national ID card (since a few years, and I'm actually not in favor) we do not use it for health care. Your health care insurance company sends you a creditcard type card that you have to show doctors and hospitals.

We also have a database of whom lives where - used amongst others because everybody who lives somewhere will receive a votingcard for communal elections and every Dutch person >18 will receive a voting card for the national elections. So the ID is not necessary for that either.

It is actually only used for identification purposes 'on the street'. Partly to catch illegal immigrants, partly to make sure people who are picked up by the police for something can identify themselves. The intend is not bad, but I still don't like the idea. Big brother watches enough allready.

Hilzoy, I commend the following posts of Charlie Stross to your attention, when you get a few spare moments: here, here, here, and most recently, today, here.

Some of this is about biometrics, and you'll note that you don't favor biometrics, but my bet is that if you push for such a card (beyond the Real ID we already have coming -- I'll repeat my question: why am I the only one who has mentioned this?), you're going to get biometrics, like it or not.

Also, another Bruce piece here.

At some point I might go back and look for more of Bruce's writing on the topic, or more likely I won't.

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