Montana declares victory in Real ID

Clint Sample, American hero

Clint Sample, American hero

Probably you don’t even know this, because your state kowtows to the federal government, but last week was the deadline for state driver’s licenses to comply with Real ID requirements or stop being valid to board commercial aircraft. What’s Real ID? The Department of Homeland Security says it’s a system of standards to make state-issued identifications harder to forge. The Montana legislature says it’s an unconstitutional infringement on states’ rights, which is the kind of argument that hasn’t been decided in favor of a state since, I dunno, Dredd Scott.

Nevertheless, the great state of Montana made it illegal to comply with Real ID in 2007. We also started making our driver’s licenses a little harder to fake, including the futuristic expedient of not printing everything on that clear top layer you can peel off with an X-acto knife. It’s almost as if Real ID were a good idea, and the problem was that it came from somebody else.

But the real problem, according to the legislature in 2007 and the governor and attorney general now, is privacy. The feds might use Real ID to gather information about our driver’s licenses, even though the DHS explicitly said it wouldn’t do that, and even though there’s no evidence it has. But that hasn’t stopped Governor Bullock and Attorney General Fox from declaring victory over Real ID in a press release after the DHS extended our deadline to comply by one year.

That’s a dubious kind of victory. It’s also a little unseemly for Montana’s executive branch to defy the federal government on this specious privacy issue when the DHS has been proven to invade our privacy in much more real and problematic ways. I don’t remember Bullock standing up to the feds when we learned that the NSA was collating our emails, texts, and phone records. You can read all about these contradictions in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. I’ll be here at my desk, watching the leaves fall gently on the unmarked van that’s been parked outside my house since Tuesday.

DHS forced to reveal internet surveillance keywords

Big Brother is watching you copy your essay from Wikipedia.

Thanks to our old buddy the Freedom of Information Act, the Department of Homeland Security has released a long list of keywords it uses to monitor the internet for information about natural disasters and terrorist attacks. “Monitor the internet for information” sounds a lot better than “spy on you,” which is what DHS might be accused of doing were their words not so stupid. Wave, drill, and infection all make the list, which means I am now caught in the dragnet for last week’s sentence, If this recent wave of infections doesn’t clear up soon, I’m going to drill a hole in Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. That’s what my type of internet radical is into—being super-pissed at the DoT. We’re everywhere.

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Occupy Wall Street: important?

Covers of the current issue of Time magazine, by region

Two articles about Occupy Wall Street penetrated the blissed-out miasma that was my past week in Los Angeles: this New York Times report on the #occupywallstreet meme’s* origin in Adbusters magazine and this link roundup on the “shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy.” They take different tones. The first is a straight profile piece about the world’s smuggest person, Kalle Lasn. The second is a semi-hysterical screed about perceived efforts to suppress the OWS movement, ranging from single-source-speaking-on-background stories that may as well be flash fiction to documented offers to coordinate anti-protest propaganda. It’s a lot to take in. The basic assumptions of each article—that OWS is a fun trend whose popularity reflects our dissatisfied zeitgeist, or that it is a repressed movement that has prompted collusion between the Department of Homeland Security and Wall Street—are impossible to believe at the same time. It’s almost as if what OWS is and what people want us to think it is are two totally different things. Or it’s like none of that is happening and we just think all the news about OWS is the product of a monolithic politico-media culture bent on deceiving us. Here we encounter the defining problem of the modern age.

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Steve King against birth control, end of human race

Not the good one

Representative Steve King (R–IA) lobbed another softball into the American media yesterday, arguing that requiring insurers to cover birth control could lead to the death of civilization. The DHS released a new set of guidelines this week that will eventually require health insurance policies to cover birth control without copays. It’s a great way for working moms to kill the tiny babies that live in their husbands’ sperm, and for coeds to slut it up like Gomorrah. I’m paraphrasing, here, but Rep. King’s comments are little more lucid:

We have people that are single, we have people that are past reproductive age, we have priests that are celibate. All of them, paying insurance premiums that cover contraceptives so that somebody else doesn’t have to pay the full fare of that? And they’ve called it preventative medicine. Preventative medicine. Well if you applied that preventative medicine universally what you end up with is you’ve prevented a generation. Preventing babies from being born is not medicine. That’s not— that’s not constructive to our culture and our civilization. If we let our birth rate get down below replacement rate we’re a dying civilization.

As always when one hears more than two Steve King sentences in a row, several concerns leap to mind.

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TSA continues to research Castillo Limit

Those of us who have our thighs caressed by a high school graduate every time we pass through Missoula International Airport* often wonder about the theoretical limit at which TSA screening procedures would not be worth preventing terrorist attacks. I call it the Castillo Limit, after former Miss USA Susie Castillo, and it’s hard to say where it would lie. Taking my nail clippers does not approach the Castillo Limit. Making everyone fly naked in a tank of that breathable gelatin from The Abyss seems like we overshot it. Somewhere in the middle is the precise border between liberty and security, but where exactly is a matter for our elected minders and, of course, international terrorists. At least one and possibly both groups got a little closer to discovering the Castillo Limit yesterday, when the Times announced that terrorists were exploring the idea of surgically implanted bombs.

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