Saturday, May 07, 2005

Give the Republicans need a time-out and stop RealID 

So, the "nuclear option" would shut down the legislative branch. Is that such a bad thing? I mean, the Republicans are going so totally crazy—breaking the rules to change the rules, threatening to assassinate judges, politicizing Schiavo, and don't get me started on fiscal policy—that it would be a blessing for the country if we sent them to the quiet corner for awhile. And isn't "giving the Republicans a time-out" a much more family-friendly framing than "the nuclear option"?

And maybe when the time-out is over, the Republicans would remember to use their indoor voices. For a change.

One really good reason to shut down the legislative branch is the RealID bill that Congress is about to send to Bush. RealID is, in essence, a system of internal passport controls. Kinda like Russia not under Stalin, but under the Czars. Tim Sparapani, the ACLU's legislative counsel:

"If the states aren't ready within three years, citizens of states that haven't made the changes won't be able to board a flight, take a train, enter a federal courthouse or even go to a Social Security building," if they use their state-issued driver's license as identification, Sparapani said.

For those states that do comply, he said, "this really does, for the first time, create a national identification card and allows every single American to be tracked by all the states and the federal government."
(via Contra Costa Times)

Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center spells out what this means for our democracy:

"The simple answer is that it gives the government greater ability to control the actions of private individuals. It has generally been the view in this country that one of the core aspects of personal freedom is to be free of government control."

"Identification is a form of coercion. It's a way someone says you can't do what you want to do unless you prove who you are."
(via Village Voice)

The Repubublicans tied the RealID bill onto a military appropriations bill, and sold it as being needed to secure the heimat. Of course, RealID is the mother of all hitchhikers: It has nothing to do with Homeland Security; it's an anti-immigrant provision by the same clowns who brought you the Minuteman:

But many of the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attack had student visas and were at one point in the United States legally. The provisions in "RealID" would not have nabbed them.

We suspect the true targets are illegal immigrants, who won't be deterred from coming across the Mexican border as long as American companies keep hiring them with a wink and a nod.
(our own Inky)

But even if RealID starts as "just" an anti-immigration bill, it won't end that way ("First they came for my Nanny..."). After all, the Czars and Stalin only had paper to work with; but we have digital technology!

If only it were some dystopian fiction, but the Senate is slated to pass the Real ID Act next week, which specifies that by 2008 all Americans who want to enjoy privileges such as bank accounts and air travel will be issued what will most likely be RFID-enabled ID cards (Homeland Security hasn’t completely decided which machine readable technology they’ll use, but they’re leaning heavily towards RFID since the chips are already going to be used in our passports). The card will likely take the place of your driver’s license and will store at the very minimum your name, birthdate, sex, ID number, a digital photograph and address, with the possibility of additional data such as a fingerprint or retinal scan. State DMVs will be receiving federal funds to hand over their databases, with the goal of making each state’s data available to all other states.

And I'm sure after all that data somehow escaped from the highly secure ChoicePoint and LexisNexis systems, we've learned from our mistakes, and the system will be completely secure.

And of course, there's no chance, no chance at all, that all the RealID identities will never, never be exchanged with the likes of MBNA for enforcing debt peonage. Wouldn't that synergy be nice? The Bankruptcy Bill and RealID making beautiful music together?

As a final bonus, the bill also give the unelected head of of the Department of Homeland Security the power to set aside all law:

Finally, just for fun, the bill includes a cheery little fascist measure granting the Secretary of Homeland Security “the authority to waive…all laws such Secretary, in such Secretary’s sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads” claimed to be vital to national security. No courts are allowed “to hear any cause or claim arising from any action undertaken, or any decision made, by the Secretary of Homeland Security” in this process, nor to order any relief for damages incurred by the exercise of the Almighty Secretary’s unchecked authority. You don’t have to be a tree-hugger to feel wary of giving the non-elected Secretary such singular power to alter the landscape—especially if those roads cut through your back yard.
(via University of Chicago)

And I just know the Republicans would never abuse the law or the Constitution by expanding "expeditious construction of the barriers and roads" to mean, well, whatever the hell they want it to mean.

The only consolation I can see is that bill requires four pieces of ID to get a driver's license. I'd be happy to see long lines at the DMV hung round the neck of the Republican Party... If, by 2008, we have any shreds of Constitutional government and the rule of law left.

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