Monday, August 30, 2010

Getting Used To It Doesn't Make It Right

Americans used to watch in varying degrees of horror as hapless Europeans were importuned by uniformed d00ds, usually German, "Papers, pliss?"

Oh, sure, if you drove, you had to have a driver's license -- a least by the time films featuring papers-demanding jack-booted thugs were hitting the silver screen -- but that bit of pasteboard only certified that your State trusted you behind the wheel. Social Security cards were around, too -- with "NOT TO BE USED FOR IDENTIFICATION" printed right on 'em. 'Cos Americans don't go on for that sort of thing.

It ebbed away. Driver's licenses sprouted photographs and merchants started asking to see them when you wrote a check -- just to make sure, you know, and who could blame them. Banks asked when you opened an account (it is wistfully amusing to recall that W. C. Fields left savings accounts in phony names scattered across the United States and probably Europe; it is eye-opening to realize it is no longer possible) and eventually -- for your own protection! -- they wanted to know your Social Security number, too. They didn't want to see your card, mind you, it still wasn't for identification.

...Of course, you have to put it on you tax forms; after all, Uncle Sam had to keep track! And everyone got used to it. It was normal. Besides, it's not like those demanding to see your "papers" were wearing jackboots, after all.

It's 2010. Your driver's license number, if it isn't the same as your Social Security number, links right back to it in records any police officer can see. Even if you don't drive, if you can't drive, you need either the DL or an ID card that carries the same information. All manner of minor functionaries blandly demand your "Social" and you can't board a commercial airplane without showing ID, having your shoes, effects and possibly yourself X-rayed and even then, it's conditional; if your name happens to be on a secret list, you're not allowed to fly -- and there's no appealing the decision.

And it's "normal." You're used to it and it's not like they're wearing jackboots, ho-ho. Besides, it's not all that much trouble, is it?

After all, it's for your own good.

Americans were a free people. We used to watch, in varying degrees of horror, movie scenes where a hapless European was importuned by police or security guards on the street or in a train station. "Papers, please," they'd demand, and compare the poor boob's name against a list. It could never, we'd think, never happen here.


(P.S.: It doesn't say "Not to be used for identification" on your Social Security card any more. It hasn't for a long, long time).


parabarbarian said...

I predict the the next big push for expanding ID's will come from the defend the borders crowd. How do you expect to enforce immigration law in the XXI without some kind of expensive to forge ID? It is silly to think the state can continue to push enforcement of immigration law onto the back of the employers through fines or other sanctions while refusing to create a "right to work" ID.

Eck! said...

I used to hold that those that do not study or understand history were likely to repeat it.

However , since then.. Those that deny history will be history.

Seems we see a fail happening.


Joe Huffman said...

Do you live within 100 miles of the border? Yes? Papers please! "Our mission is to defend the homeland..."

sam said...

Heinlein used to encourage destructive disobedience. Lie, deny, obfuscate where you can. Corrupt the data.

If enough do it, we could GIGO up the system.

Sigh. Probably a pipe dream now. Too many cross-check/error correcting systems in place.

Anonymous said...

Please, the government can't tell the difference from a 6 year old and a "terror list" guy. We continue to take them seriously. Here in Indiana a few years ago the top man at the DMV was a convicted identity thief. And had an identity theft operation running inside the DMV allegedly without his knowlege. We can't concealed carry at government buildings even with our govenment issued permits (because they can't verify them?) background checks finger prints retinal scans nothing seems sufficient. Show me your papers why? Smoke and mirrors. It is to get us used to doing what we are told. And not to question.

Stranger said...

A. Nonny Muss has it right. There's so much emphasis on ID to get us used to showing ID.

Just before WWII there were a great many European refugees around with stories of getting to the border between France and Spain, and discovering their "papers" were not recognized on either side. Meaning they were stuck, until they could bribe their way into Spain.

I have been more than suspicious of government issued ID since.


Kevin said...

Regarding Heinlein, I've always appreciated this quote from "The Notebooks of Lazarus Long":

"When a place gets crowded enough to require ID's, social collapse is not far away. It is time to go elsewhere. The best thing about space travel is that it made it possible to go elsewhere."

I wish I worked on a starship.

Bubblehead Les. said...

Hell, with the Canadian Border about 30 miles from my front door, (although it is in Lake Erie), the local charter boat guys are always getting hassled by Customs if they happen to go out too far after fish. The funny thing is, if they get stopped by the Canucks, they are usually told to just turn around if they don't have a Canadian Fishing License. Also heard the Coast Guard HATES the Border Sailors, and some times have "Radio Problems" when the Border Pukes are trying to set up a "Lake Block". "Ooops, Sorry, can't help you, disabled boat just called for a tow. Maybe next week."

B said...

While I agree with your dislike of the current situation, I have to ask....What are YOU doing about it? When others have bemoaned the situation, and suggested action, you have complained that they were too radical, too quick to action, etc.

Yet it is inaction which has led to the situation which you bemoan.

Roberta X said...

I did? --I tell people not to shoot the bastards unless the bastards shoot first; I'm not sorry if you have a problem with that.

And I would argue that is is action that has led to the situation -- a Congress cheered on to "do something," a President (and Congress) invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, and so on. Not to mention re-electing the Congressmen who made the mess in the first place.

The good guys don;t get to fire the first shot.

Fenrir said...

After reading your post and giving it thought I have this to say: You're a fool. You're a fool who believes that freedom has no price and no cost. You're a fool who believes that the ability to track or identify you will always be misused. You're a fool who has never suffered having their identity stolen, checks written in your name, your credit cards maxed out by someone else, or your life destroyed by massive loans in your name.

Lets do away with all forms of identification. I cannot prove that I'm not you, but you can't prove who you are either. I could go empty your bank account on my word because there's no way to identify myself. I could go buy a new car in your name; no ID necessary. Or how about a nice pair of jackboots, eh?

You are a fool and you need to sit back down and think about the foolish things you've said.

B said...

"The good guys don;t get to fire the first shot."

Ok, then at what point do we enact change in a more direct manner?

Ballot box and soapbox do not seem to be getting the job done.

At what point will you support direct action?

Will it be when taxes go too high? If so, how high is too high? When you cannot go beyond your neighborhood without showing your papers? If so, what kind of papers will be acceptable....and at what point is it ok to stop you? Will it be when your friends are on that list?

You seem to feel that there are rules in this fight. Perhaps there are. But the other side ain't playing by any of them. While I hope that the rooftop protests never happen, I ask again: At what point will you support a more direct form of action?

'cause at some point you might have to make that decision.

I know my you know yours? Or will you just continue to back up?

Epsilon Given said...

@Fenrir: While "Identity Theft" is a major concern, IDs will not prevent theft. When was the last time you had to show your ID when you purchased something online? Or when you used a Debit or Credit Card at a store?

As for the potential for abuse: it's already happened! Joe Huffman at one time described how census records were used (illegally) to intern Japanese-Americans; we now have a news story that IDs are being asked for on trains.

Why trains? I don't's not as though you're accessing a credit card account there, or buying beer, or even signing a check. You are simply moving from point A to point B, which is a natural right, with or without ID.

Roberta X said...

Obviously, I am a fool; either I'm not shooting enough bumbling TSA ex-mallcops in the face, or I'm not clever enough to realize Teh Gummint is holding my soft little self in the palm of its caring, ID-tracking, taxing and conscripting little hand.

A pox on both of you -- less of a pox on my friend Mr. B., who is young enough to not mind a decade or so of sharp readjustment and brave enough to not mind the possibility of being impaled on it. Yes, Mr. B, there are rules to this: the ones I chose to live by and will, if it comes to that, die by. Otherwise I'd just be a bloody murderer.

As for Fenrir, looky, kid, I don't mind the bank making sure I'm their depositor and there are a number of good ways for them to do it -- fingerprints, iris scans, sooper-sekrit code number and so on. I mind the pig-intercoursing government being the high and mighty arbiter of identity, of which of us are moral enough to go fly a plane, of being tracked like a bug on a plate by incompetent boobs on the public payroll. Men, in fact, much like you.

One of you wants blood on the streets; the other wants it carefully measured out and only against people his masters think are baaad. Mad dog and lapdog aren't the only choices, y'know.

Roberta X said...

PS: Mr. B, it is a first-rate tactical mistake to identify the conditions which will cause you to take, as you so delicately put it, "direct action." Don't do it -- it's a trap.

Remember, the fellow urging you to throw bombs is the most likely to be a government agent -- or worse.

B said...

You need to re-read my comments.

I hope the violence never comes, and I do not want to be the one that starts it. But to say that you will NEVER be the one that does leaves you no recourse. You will instead be nibbled to death by ducks.

I sincerely hope that it never comes. but to be willing to accept anything is to be a sheep forever.

If your *ahem* leaders fail to fear those who they lead, then they are, in fact, goats who will lead you to slaughter.

I do not advocate "voting from the rooftops"..... neither do I advocate waiting forever while the country is destroyed around us incrementally. If the ballot box works (and I hope it does) then all the better. If not, better have another string to your bow.

The first shot in the revolutionary war was from the colonists.

Let us hope that there will be none in this conflict.

As to Fenrir's comments: You are not a fool. He is, obviously, as he fails to see the whole picture.
You, at least, understand the reasons this happened, and can see beyond one incident.

Stranger said...

Fenrir. Fen dweller - aka Fenris - son of Loki Mother. Interesting handle. And pix.

Vánagandr is wrong and I am forbidden to say what I think.

But I can say this. It is a funny thing. When the only ID was your face, identities were very hard to steal if you had mischief on your mind. The more paperwork involved in proving you were born, the easier ID theft gets.

All it takes to clean out your bank account is a debit card number. One unwary swipe at the gas pump will provide that.

Yes, if there were no ID, my word at the bank would be good. And my bank account, my identity, and my privacy would still be far better hidden from thieves than it is now. As anyone who knows how bank security used to be, before "technology," would know.

The more complex the locks, the easier they are to break.


Davidwhitewolf said...

Heinlein also noted (I think in Tramp Royale) that when a hotelier asked him for identification he'd walk out; the act of signing his name in the register should be sufficient identification for anyone. That system used to work just fine.

Of course, honor kept most hotel guests of those times from defrauding their hosts in the first place; would it were so now.