My roommate texted me the other night that she needed my social security number. She was doing her taxes via TurboTax and they wouldn’t let her file without it. In DC, there is a housing credit for which it is obvious that neither me nor my roommate are eligible. But TurboTax made us go through a whole bunch of questions that were supposedly necessary to assess our eligibility. The program asked for all household members and their social security numbers. I ditched TurboTax and went with H&R Block who didn’t ask me to share my roommates personal information with them.
Just as I’m thinking about how infuriatingly accustomed we all are to giving information to government and/or private companies, I get an email from the DC government informing me that it is time to get my REAL ID. Apparently, back in 2005, a national ID was snuck onto a piece of military spending legislation. I’m told that there was a bit of a stink when it happened. Many states, in fact, said they would refuse to participate. But it is slowly rolling out anyway.
So what is this REAL ID?
The federal government no longer wants the states to be able to determine their own rules for issuing drivers licenses. And while the feds cannot exactly force the states, they can make certain state IDs not usable for federal identification purposes. That means, for example, that your state ID could not be used to board a flight within the U.S. They say these new regulations are about anti-terrorism. But they are more about anti-immigration and about cataloging all of us for ease of future harassment and control.
What I and every other license holding resident of DC will need to do is go down to our local DMV with at least four pieces of identification that meet their standards. In my case, for example, I’ll have to go down there with my passport, social security number, apartment lease, and a bank statement. All of these items will be scanned and held in their system. I will also have my picture retaken and added to their facial recognition database. The ID that I will be issued must have a machine readable zone. Here is what the NYCLU had to say about that in this report they issued (p. 14).
Similar to a bar code, the machine-readable zone must contain minimum information to allow any entity with a reader to capture the data on a driver’s license. The Real ID Act mandates the following minimum information be included in the machine-readable zone: license expiration date, issuance date, state or territory of issuance, holder’s legal name, date of birth, gender, address, unique identification number, and inventory control number for the physical documents maintained by the state.
DHS has granted states the authority to add information to be contained in the machine readable zone, including biometric information, such as iris scans or fingerprints. DHS has decided that the personal information contained in the machine readable zone will not be encrypted, which means that it will be easily accessible to government agents and the private sector. Moreover, there is no prohibition on third party access to information contained in the machine-readable zone.
So basically the states can include iris scans, fingerprints, or pretty much any creepy thing they want and they cannot encrypt the information. Even if you are one of those people who trusts the government to compile limitless data on you, are you really o.k. with anyone you need to show your ID to having that information? There are already bars that scan people when they walk through the door. Do you trust every bar and gym and restaurant with your iris scan?
I’m not even going to entertain the arguments about needing this for our security. Nothing the government does is for our security. It is for their security at the cost of ours. If you want to read some of the arguments, then feel free to click through to the congressional testimony or this article from Bruce Schneier.
What I will do is ask people to imagine the kinds of abuses that could occur with a system that collects that much data about all of us in one place. Think of the number of people who will have access to my name, face, gender, dob, social, passport number, bank account, and address. In Ohio, they freaked out because they found out that 30,000 cops plus had unfettered access to DMV info with facial recognition. Multiply that times the fifty states. Police routinely abuse their access to information to harass, stalk, or murder citizens. Now we are just making it easier.
Do we really need to write yet again about the kind of files that the federal government has been collecting on activists from the beginning of time? Here is a handy summary of some of the more well known acts against us by our government.
What is it going to take for people to stop rolling over and start asking why it is o.k. for us to be cataloged by a cooperating cabal of government and private agencies?
A friend of mine posted this to facebook. One of the commenters asked how far back we are supposed to go.
The thing about colonization, land grabs, genocide, slavery, gentrification – whatever manifestation of deciding you want something from people and just taking it – is that erasure is a key component. Which means the people that can go the farthest back are the people who are writing the wrong history.
A few years ago there was a post on Womanist Musings about how she could not trace her family history because she is the descendant of slaves. I also cannot trace my history. I am adopted and information about my biological relations is not available to me. My adopted family has a trail that ends in the holocaust or the pogrom. Who knows where all those wandering Jews wandered/were exiled from.
Getting to the origin of things is impossible. But we should still try. Because if you think about how hard oppressors have worked to destroy the histories of people, then you know just how important it is to protect and resurrect as much of it as you can. There is a reason why the Spanish destroyed the codices.
But when it comes to seeking justice, it is the present that is the most important thing.
The thing about this graphic, and the post that went with it, is that it is so easy to interpret it as referring to family history rather than current power imbalances. The history of one Spanish descended person in South America is not the important thing. The important thing is the unequal power of that descendant in the here and now. The important thing is the wealth that was extracted and continues to be extracted. They are injustices that have roots in history, but would still be problematic if they were new.
I agree that roots are important. I agree that we should be undoing our collective mindfuck – whether that is reclaiming indigenous beliefs or coming up with new ones. But identity and history are incredibly complicated. How do the principles outlined in this graphic get applied when the Cherokee nation decides to expel the descendants of black slaves who took the trail of tears with them?
For me the question is always about what is happening right now. What is most important to address right now? Who is suffering right now? What is the history that got us here, in all of its complexity, and how do we stop the bleeding?
The internets are up in arms that Dropbox has named Condoleezza Rice to their board.
What the hell is the point?
Newsflash. Companies are “led” by awful people. I have written before about working for Duane Andreas of Archer Daniels Midland, whose food you certainly consume. Do you eat Kraft? (Check yes if you chow those veggie boca burgers.) Well their board has a Nike exec on it. Do you buy sweatshop shit from Nike? Well, they have a Starbucks exec on their board. Like a little Starbucks? They have former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the guy who blocked the release of torture photos. Own an apple product? Say hello to defense contractor and lethal laser weapon maker Northrop Grumman.
Why are you wasting energy on the character of one or two board members or CEOs or other social climbing fuckwads?
We have a systemic problem. Our problem is anybody who wants to be on the board of one of these companies. Our problem is that we nearly cannot live without giving our time and money and bits of our soul to these horrible people. Our problem is that these organizations are built on our backs. They poison you. They spy on you. They steal from you. And then a few of them make a donation or come out in favor of some bullshit cause and people think, “Awww. Well that one doesn’t seem so bad.”
They are bad. The system is bad. It is rotten to the core. The fact that some of these climbers support gay marriage or hire black people or know enough not to say anything too offensive in public does not change things. In fact, I would rather have all the companies run by people like Condoleezza Rice. It is more honest that way. When the woman who went shoe shopping while New Orleans drowned is the face of things, it is harder to pretend that things aren’t evil.
Rice wanted success on the terms that people who appoint board members define. That picture of her is from Augusta national. She has no problem joining a club that excluded women until 2012 and excluded black people until 1990.
Well, congrats to Condi and all the other people who spent their lives pursuing power and money and attained it. Congrats to stepping on whoever you needed to in order to get what you want. Now to those of us who would like to think we actually want a world with different values, how about we start getting as serious as they are? Meaning how about we stop getting distracted by measuring the relative horribleness of the owners/climbers and focus on the system itself.
I have to start these posts again, because I keep losing track of articles and it is a pain in the ass to find them again on twitter. So here goes.
If you did not catch this Ta-Nehisi Coates post about how “progressives” deny white supremacy and structural racism, read it. Coates says they “misunderstand.” I think its more than misunderstanding. At the very least, we should call it willful ignorance. But he’s way nicer than me.
More hunger strikes. Now they are coming from immigrant detention centers in Takoma and Texas. Both owned by The GEO Group.
As I was arguing with my fellow jurors the last few weeks, one of them brought up the changes that will occur because of the new DC marijuana laws. But I tend to agree with the folks in this interview that it won’t do a damn thing to help the black kids being picked up for street selling. They won’t be getting licenses to sell legally.
If we cannot get people to care about the record number of exonerated last year and what they go through once they get out, how much more impossible to get people to care about those who actually did do something violent?
Really, in order to get people to care about the people in prison, we have to get them to care about the poor and the mentally ill. But even when people hear about the bipolar woman who was locked up for more than two years without charges or the homeless vet who baked to death in Rikers, they still don’t want to face how fucked up things are. I guess nobody wants to think about the fact that poverty or mental illness could happen to them too.
Here is another thing that came out so clearly in jury duty. People really believe that everything is scientific. They were expecting ballistics reports and DNA. Instead they got unreliable witnesses and sloppy police work. Not that it mattered. Even without bullshit experts or real evidence, people were happy to indict.
Part of the problem is how much people want to believe police, despite all the reasons police have to lie and the long history of them being caught in those lies.
I am still turning over in my head how the people in jury duty could have the racial disparities staring them in the face every day and not have a problem with it. Speaking of disparities, did you know that “Native Americans make up little more than 1 percent of the nation’s population” but “at any given time, 43 percent to 60 percent of juveniles held in federal custody were Native American”?
And finally, since being in jury duty made me despair for humanity, I will end with this post about Kitty Genovese. She was the woman attacked in Queens in 1964 and whose case became proof that New Yorkers just didn’t give a shit. Supposedly, all these people heard her attack and did nothing. But that turns out to be mostly bullshit.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved this book so unexpectedly much. It is a delightfully philosophical and down to earth critique of and defense of sports.
Hern pushes back on the idea that sports are a different and lesser kind of cultural product – as opposed to, perhaps, music or painting. Like all of our cultural products, sports both reflect and create our society. And we should take that seriously. He also argues that “a generalized disrespect for sports, athletes, physicality, and even materiality is not just a class thing it’s also bound up with race, gender, sexuality, and lots else – creating a clusterfuck of bodily loathing, fear, guilt, shame, distrust, and misapprehension.”
The book uses sports to talk about all of those things and more – race, gender, sexuality, capitalism, authenticity, violence, pain, cultural appropriation, the commons. It is amazing how much he managed to pack into a relatively short book.
A long time ago I had a boss who didn’t have a television when her daughter was little. My response was to ask what her kid spoke to the other kids at school about. She answered that that was precisely why they eventually got a television. I think Hern makes a strong case for sports on many levels, not just as a means for communicating with the millions of avid fans and participants out there. But just the opportunity for public discourse alone should convince people to take it seriously.
Read it. Really. It is fantastic.