Now, what I’m about to tell you is not particularly anything new. It’s just one of those things that comes more and more into focus as time goes on, and so it’s good to haul it out every now and then and see what new pieces of the puzzle have emerged, kind of a “connect the dots” picture in which more and more dots appear, until the picture transitions from a broad outline into a richly detailed diagram.
Let’s start with a dot called “The Real ID Act.” This piece of Federal legislation was tacked onto a tsunami relief and Iraq war appropriations bill by renowned overweight anti-drug crusader Jim Sensenbrenner and passed without hearing or debate in 2005. It orders the states to issue a standard, machine-readable driver’s license and link all their data bases, and mandates presentation of this standardized card for anyone wanting to buy an airline or railroad ticket, access a bank account, draw a social security or other government check, or enter a federal courthouse. The law originally called for its implementation to be completed by May of 2008, a date which has since been extended to December of 2009.
There is a good chance it will keep on being extended, because, like Mr. Senselessbrenner’s pet drug war, this is a law that creates more problems than it solves. For one thing, it insists that everyone must have a “home address” that is not a post office box, disqualifying not only the homeless but anyone who lives in an RV—preventing these people from receiving social security or VA checks—and then there’s the fact that the interconnections between state databases don’t exist and would cost millions if not billions to create—as would the new, souped-up drivers’ licenses that states are now required to create, without any funding from the Feds to help them out. Republicans used to fume about “unfunded mandates” when the federal government wanted schools improved—but here they are, creating a whopper on their own.
And then there are veracity and security issues. The law called for a grand total of twelve hours of training in forged-document recognition for all DMV employees. Tests of this training have repeatedly shown that it is inadequate. The law calls for networking with Canada and Mexico, meaning that if you had any kind of legal trouble in Mexico, it would uncritically be added to your data—and not only is Mexico a country where la morda is a way of life and American tourists are seen in some quarters as easy targets, Mexico is a country in which you are considered guilty until you prove yourself innocent.
Security issues? It would be almost impossible to make such a huge, widespread data base hack proof—and, to ice the cake, the Homeland Security boys are now proposing to have the data base compiled and maintained by a private contractor. I guess Michael Chertoff looked at what a rousing success private contractors have been in Iraq, VA hospitals, New Orleans and medical insurance, to name a few, and knew it was the way to go. Gotta hand it to those neocons. They don’t give up easy.
Well, Real ID is not a done deal. Fifteen states are in open revolt about it–legislative revolt, that is—and the fact that its implementation date has just been extended past the end of the Bush regime (I hope!) may indicate that it will never happen. But there are plenty of forces pushing for it from both sides of the aisle.
What are its distinguishing characteristics? It is sweeping, underfunded, and based on unrealistic assumptions about technology and security. It makes official nonpersons, if not outright criminals, out of individuals who fail to comply with it but are otherwise law abiding citizens.
Dot two is the war on drugs, which likewise makes criminals out of millions of people who are otherwise law-abiding–and frequently on the progressive end of the political spectrum. While it is simply impossible to fully enforce the drug laws, they do put a damper on “drug” users’ free speech, since if they bring too much attention to themselves by threatening the political status quo, they can be readily deprived of their liberty and property—unlike violent criminals, who can merely be deprived of their liberty. While there is a strong popular movement afoot to change these laws, the US and Canadian governments are upping the ante by denying entry to people who have merely written about drug experiences they had decades ago, even though they were not arrested for them, and to folks with decades-old drug violations.
But, you can be sure they’re not stopping everybody. Hey, pretty much all the Democratic candidates have admitted to trying it when they were young. I bet they won’t have problems getting into Canada. Again, we have a sweeping, underfunded if not unfundable, unrealistic law that makes criminals of millions of people who are not a threat to the social fabric.
Let’s connect real ID and the War on (Some) Drugs to immigration reform. Congress’s latest attempt to deal with the issue has just been shot down because a lot of angry Americans are demanding that all “illegal” immigrants should be kicked out of the country, instead of just paying an exorbitant “fine” (aka la morda del Norte) in order to stay here and work at poverty-level jobs. What really threatens these people is the destruction of our economy and their security by corporate looters, but poop flows downhill and so the Mexicans are getting the blame. Neither the bill’s supporters or most of the reactionary opposition to it seem in touch with the reality of deporting or even collecting large fines from millions of people. Meanwhile, questions persist about the string of detention camps that Halliburton has been contracted to build in the southern US—are they for illegal immigrants, Christians, or anti-war Americans? Who is going to round up all these people? And how?
Another delusional law, right? Three of a kind….
This fourth point may seem trivial compared to rounding up millions of people, but recent laws in Florida and Utah (and under discussion in other states) have made it difficult to buy and sell used merchandise, requiring a $10,000 bond from the store, fingerprints and id from the seller, and a 30-day waiting period before offering them for sale. The alleged reasoning behind the bill is the need to halt traffic in stolen property. Unlike the delusions I’ve characterized above, this law is enforceable, although apparently it is not being enforced, but it still demonstrates that legislators are completely in the pockets of large corporations, out of touch with what it is like to live in the low end of this country’s wage spectrum, and capable of passing legislation that violates common sense and criminalizes everyday activities.
Now, let’s add something that at first may seem quite different, and tie that in: it is becoming increasingly obvious, possibly even to a bunch of idiots like the Democratic-controlled Congress, that the real story behind the US attorney firings was their unwillingness to participate in the illegal vote-suppressive activities of the Republican party. Depriving people of their right to vote by manipulation and intimidation disenfranchises them without the mess, expense, and publicity of making felons out of them, doesn’t it? Can you say, “class warfare,” boys and girls?
So, I am beginning to suspect that, when Bush said, “Heckuva job, Brownie!” when FEMA botched the evacuation of New Orleans, he really meant it—because the trashing of New Orleans accomplished the scattering and disenfranchisement of one of the largest black voting blocs in the country. Is that what happened? Did a small clique of calculating, cold-blooded, selfish, rich (mostly) white guys intentionally decline to evacuate the poorest of the poor in New Orleans because they were registered Democrats?
Now look at their stance on climate change, with Bush’s mouthpiece at NASA, Dr. Michael Griffin, saying “I’m not sure it’s fair to say that (climate change) is a problem we must wrestle with….I guess I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we might have right here today, right now, is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that’s a rather arrogant position for people to take.” His was the “arrogant position,” and he hasn’t apologized for it, just said he regrets letting people know what he thinks. It is arrogant for the wealthiest few percent of the world’s population to decide that it’s OK if climate change kills off a few billion poor, dark-skinned people, if that’s what it takes for them to stay rich.
Am I being paranoid? Are the Bushies after more than just a permanent Republican majority in America? Are they out to lower the world’s population to a sustainable level by killing off anyone who is too poor to insulate themselves from the military, financial, and ecological bombs they are setting off? Are they treating the rest of us like cattle because that’s how they see us? Are they, at some point, planning to try and enforce all these impossible laws they have passed, if that’s what it takes to maintain their grip on the economy? Are they delusional enough to think they can do this? Am I naïve to think they can’t—or won’t at least try?
I have long thought that the Bush junta was merely stupid. Maybe they’re not stupid. Maybe they’re intentionally evil. Or, maybe they’re both stupid and evil, which seems most likely. The two often go hand in hand. In any case, by their collapse over the Iraq question the Democrats have conclusively demonstrated that they are not an effective opposition party. As I’ve often said, they’re just playing “good cop” to the Repugs’ “bad cop,” and both cops are working for the same corporate bosses. As Cindy Sheehan has famously realized, there is no salvation in the Democratic Party. While the media have widely reported her disillusionment with the Dems, her call for a meeting in Philadelphia on July 4 to “try and figure a way out of this ‘two’ party system that is bought and paid for by the war machine which has a stranglehold on every aspect of our lives” has been passed over by the mainstreamers. Ms. Sheehan, have I got a party for you. It’s….Green.