All posts by NanuqFC

And so it begins to affect us all: Nationalization of voter information

First, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) came for the undocumented workers — mostly brown-skinned people from Mexico and Central American countries. Then, they came for Muslims from Africa and the Middle East with a travel ban, based on nothing more than the fact that their countries are majority Muslim, several of which are at war or in famine, resulting in refugees. Next they came to obliterate access to health insurance and health care for 22 million people, many of whom likely voted for the current president.

And now ‘they’ — Trump’s GOP — are coming for all the rest of us who vote and who oppose the current regime.

As BP has outlined,  the “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity,” created by executive order and featuring Vice President Mike Pence and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, is coming for your name, address, birthdate, (partial) social security number, military service status, voting history, felony convictions, and more.

[While Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos has voiced his opposition to these demands, he has also said he must comply to the extent that some information is routinely available to the public, by providing voters’ names, addresses, telephone numbers, years of their birth, and whether the voters participated in general elections since 2008.]

[Update from vtdigger.org while this post was in process:] But Monday [July 3], citing new information and a public outcry over the weekend, Condos issued a statement saying he wouldn’t send any information until receiving certain assurances from the Trump administration. [emphasis added] Condos questioned the security of transmittal processes specified by the Commission and how the data will be used.

And most importantly, Condos is quoted by VtDigger as refusing to provide any information  “until I receive answers to these important questions,” he said. “I am working with the Vermont attorney general’s office to understand all of our options, and we will take the full amount of time allotted to respond with what information that is already publicly available, if any, will be provided.” That deadline is July 14, 2017.

Kobach in particular is notorious for making unsubstantiated claims about massive ‘voter fraud’ and litigating in support of various restrictive ordinances and laws, for example, requiring a state-issued photo ID and/or proof of citizenship to be shown by every person attempting to vote.

I have called on  the Vermont Democratic Party’s interim chairman, Faisal Gill, and its executive director, Conor Casey, to issue a statement opposing compliance with the demands of the ‘Voter Fraud Commission.’

To help Jim Condos, our elected Secretary of State, stand strong, you could send him a note in support of noncompliance with this transparent attempt to nationalize all the states’ voter rolls. Then send one to Rep. Peter Welch, Senator Patrick Leahy, and Senator Bernie Sanders. If you think it will do any good, you might consider sending something to Governor Phil Scott, too.

You could include a statement identifying the White House’s Election Integrity Commission or “Voter Fraud Commission” as a radical Republican effort to nationalize all the states’ voter rolls and to suppress voting by Democrats and liberal-identified opposition groups.

The second action item could be an urgent message to Secretary of State Jim Condos to continue to deny access to Vermont’s voter information by this bogus commission. The demand for such information is without rational justification and undermines democracy. It calls for a response of civil disobedience by our Secretary of State to these overreaching demands in the service of a budding dictatorship.

The third action item you might consider is a call to your state legislator to amend or repeal the law Secretary Condos says he must obey, the law that requires him to send at least some of the information. These demands are not being made in normal circumstances or by honorable men preserving democratic processes: they are thugs seeking to preserve their power by any and all means, particularly by finding ways to suppress votes by anyone who might be opposed to the current administration.

The next item on your action list could be a call, a conversation, an email to all your friends and relatives, allies and fence-sitters, whether they are Democrats, civil libertarians, Progressives, allies, and even moderate Republicans, asking them to call, write, or email Jim Condos to support his continuing to resist this transparently anti-democratic tactic.

We hope that members of all those various groups will also contact the members of our congressional delegation to urge them to speak out against this precursor to the nationalization of voter information. The main reason Russian attempts to hack the vote were unsuccessful was that each state voting district and municipality controls its own lists and tallies; centralizing that information in the hands of this partisan federal commission simply does the hackers’ job for Russia.

Further you might get in contact with groups interested in protecting the right to vote from partisan interference, including the ACLU, the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, the Vermont Workers’ Center, and others. We must stand together.

And if nothing else seems to work, it might be time to bring out the signs in Montpelier for a massive show of resistance to federal control of state voter rolls.

If the so-called ‘Election Integrity Commission’ succeeds in its quest for all voter information from all the states and territories, it will be the masterstroke that will begin America’s devolution into a dictatorship. We must stand together, now.

LocaVote: Town & School Meetings Need You

If there’s one place where you can vote, and that vote makes a difference in your life, it’s at Town and School Meetings.

It’s Democracy, dude. It works when you get woke and go all in.townmeeting

 

And it’s the same idea, whether your town has an actual annual meeting to decide budgets and elect the select board and the town listers (who evaluate the worth of your property for tax purposes) and the town clerk and the treasurer; or whether you vote only by ballot, no actual interpersonal interaction required.

It’s Democracy, people, and it only works well when you’re plugged in. When you read the reports. When you are present and accounted for. When you listen hard to others asking questions about where the money’s going, and what about that new dump truck.

It works better when you figure out enough about what’s going on to ask questions of your own. When you raise your hand and the Moderator (who runs the meeting) calls on you, and everyone listens to what you have to say.

That’s locavote empowerment, baby!

And if you don’t believe me, just look at what Frank Bryan and Susan Clark have to say:

Town Meeting is the one day of the year when regular Vermonters can assume the role of legislators, says Frank Bryan, a leading authority on town meeting as a Vermont institution and the author of Real Democracy: The New England Tradition And How It Works.

“Most Vermonters — all Vermonters, if they want to … can be a participant in the democratic process that 95 percent of Americans can only dream about,” says Bryan, who is a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Vermont. “You can’t do this in Pittsburgh and in Buffalo, or San Francisco, even. You can’t do it. You can’t be a legislator and amend from the floor and change policy in real time.”

“There’s a sense of community and a sense of togetherness that we have here,” says Susan Clark, a co-author, with Bryan, of All Those In Favor: Rediscovering the Secrets of Town Meeting and Community. “There’s a fabric … Town Meeting has created a culture. Just the way Colorado has a cowboy culture, we have a Town Meeting culture. And it’s something that we need to recognize and we need to feed. Otherwise, it will go away.”

So, I’m askin’ you all to perform Democracy Tuesday, March 7, or whenever your Town meeting might be. It’s what will save our state and ultimately our nation. You, me, him, her, them: asking questions, getting answers, holding local governments accountable.

Practicing Democracy. Performing Democracy. Doing Democracy.

Go to your Town Meeting. Go vote by “Australian (paper) ballot” on budgets and the people who will make your town work (or not).

Speak, ask, vote. It matters.

Merry Christmas from FairPoint? Updated with Doggerel

Update #2 December 27, Downed Wire Day 33 (no doggerel this time): The day after Christmas (Friday 26th), a  guy temping for FairPoint showed up, a day late and a truck short. His truck had broken down, he said, and he was driving his girlfriend’s Blazer. Girlfriend was doing the ride-along. All he had for equipment was a ladder, and no back-up, to haul up 200-plus feet of phone line to a height that would allow unimpeded access for delivery trucks and emergency vehicles. When I got home from errand-running, the line was up, sort of, lower than normal, at its lowest point about as high as my DIY pole. He left the ladder, so we assumed he would be coming back with help.

WRONG! I just saw the taillights heading down the driveway, and the ladder is gone, so I guess he’s done as much as he’s going to do. That line will be down in the first ice-storm, and then we’ll get to do it all again. {Heavy sigh}

Well, here’s the newest update on the FairPoint phone line draped across the driveway saga, now 31 32 days old.

Got a phone call this morning (December 24) from “private name, private number” who turned out to be “Byron,” from FairPoint, speaking with a slight southern accent. He was checking in to see whether the problem still exists, and whether it would be okay for a couple of technicians to drop by tomorrow – yep, on Christmas – “to take a look at it.”

Of course I said okay. And I note that no repair promise was made. And I thought, “Gee, FairPoint must be paying something like triple overtime to get these folks to work on Christmas.”

I was getting ready to go picket with the unions, and maybe I’ll still do that, to show solidarity from someone who has been waiting over a month for a repair and who puts the responsibility where it truly belongs: on the incompetent, intransigent management.

Merry-Happy-Whatever-You-Celebrate, friends. Please keep a kind thought for the unions – Communications Workers of America (Local 1400), and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (Local 2326) – who are struggling for their jobs and dignity and fighting a widespread public perception that they are to blame for the backlog of no-service, no-repair complaints.

Update: Here’s the promised doggerel with today’s (non-) events:

A FairPoint Christmas

‘Twas the day before Christmas, and when the phone rang

A guy named “Byron” from the FairPoint gang

Said they’d be working tomorrow, would it be okay

For a crew to come here by truck or by sleigh

To look at the line over the driveway hung low

With a word of apology for being so slow.

Of course, said I. It’s been four weeks,

A little more, even, and my tone was bleak.

I slept that night with extra hope for the morrow,

Tempered with a sense of cynical sorrow.

Two weeks in I had built us a quick-fix pole –

To make space for our cars was the immediate goal.

And it worked well enough for us to go under

It stood through two storms to my great wonder.

But now FairPoint would fix it, or so Byron said.

I spent a nice Christmas, hope mingled with dread.

I checked all day, I could see it from here,

That fragile pole still keeping the driveway clear

Enough for Wayne who delivered our wood.

And when Ross plowed the driveway that pole still stood.

Good thing, too, since as darkness fell

There was no news from FairPoint, nothing to tell.

No guys with a truck, no temps who’d been hired

To come to the sticks to fix our phone wire.

I felt bad for the union folks out on their strike

Who’d be back at work, except for the spite

Of managers and owners who refused to agree

To concessions workers made with deliberate speed.

Those workers had a Christmas but only just thanks

To people who donated toys to their ranks

So the kids would manage a bit of good cheer

In what has been a very lean year.

Six p.m. has gone by, and there’s no sign of a truck,

Just one more instance where the customer’s stuck

With lousy service and promises broken

Regardless of the rosy words that were spoken.

If I had a choice, I’d cancel my service.

But with no cell near, I’d be rather nervous.

And without a connection for web and WiFi

How would I then political trickery decry?

I’m with the unions, FairPoint should settle,

The workers have shown such strength and such mettle.

The issues are serious, customers leaving in droves,

What more do you need to drive the point home?

And so I exclaim as I peer through the night

Support the workers, my friends, the unions are right!

FairPoint’s Wrong Number

[Update #3: Day 15, still no action from FairPoint beyond a couple of phone calls. I had contacted the Vermont Dept. of Public Service again on Friday to make sure our repair ticket and lack-of-service-complaint had not been closed out since we do have a dial tone. I was assured that it would not be closed until the line was fixed, although Christine Peterson at DPS said she could not really push FairPoint too hard because folks without dial tone service were a priority. Within a couple of hours, “Carrie” who identified herself as calling from FairPoint (Maine area code) left a message inviting me to call back to let her know “if they’ve fixed that line yet.” It was not a toll-free number. I called, left a message (“No, Carrie, of course ‘they’ haven’t fixed the line, as I’m sure you know. And I note this is not a toll-free call, so I want you to remove the charge for this call from my bill.”

At least the guy who plows my driveway will be able to get under the wire now that I’ve propped it up with my jury-rig. That could be important in the next couple of days.

[Update #2:  On Day 9 of the downed-wire-across-the driveway FairPoint non-response, my firewood supplier had called to say he was bringing 3 cords. With wood being in short supply, I didn’t turn him down. Instead, I jury-rigged my own pole out of stuff I had on hand: plastic conduit and a broomstick anchored to a metal fence post I hammered into the side of the driveway (not to worry, phone lines this old are all low-voltage and coated) to lift the wire. It was high enough for the truck to get through, and it survived the windy, snowy, sleety night, and may last long enough for the second load of firewood to be delivered tomorrow, which will be Day 11. Crossing my fingers … oh, that’s what FairPoint’s plan is, too, I guess. But they’re getting paid for less and less service.]

[Update #1: Response from Public Service Department; robocall from FairPoint; live person call from Fairpoint. See comments for details.]

It’s been a week since a big section of a neighbor’s pine tree blew down across my driveway, taking out the power and phone lines. I walked down to the also power-and-phone-less neighbor’s to borrow a car so I could drive up to Town Hall to phone in the report to Green Mountain Power.

Now, I’m not particularly thrilled with Gaz Metro’s near-monopoly ownership of Vermont’s electric (GMP, acquired in 2007; Central Vermont Public Service, 2012) and gas (Vermont Gas, 1986) companies in Vermont. Not to mention the company’s (ahem) absorption of a rate-payer-financed loan without repayment, a deal okayed by the Shumlin Administration and the Public Service Board.

But I admit to being impressed when a GMP truck, complete with bucket lift, rolled into the lower third of my driveway an hour after the call, and disgorged two guys with a chainsaw. The driveway was cleared and electric power restored in about another hour.

Contrast that with FairPoint’s total lack of response. The GMP/Gaz Metro guys had told us that they could not – were not allowed to – restring the phone line. They tied a couple pieces of orange surveyor’s tape onto the wire where it draped obliquely across the driveway, and that was that. I was not surprised.

So, my wife filed a wire-down repair request that day via FairPoint’s website. The next day, Tuesday the 25th, I filed another. On Friday (late Thursday night) I sent another. Having the wire draped low over the driveway means no deliveries from FedEx or UPS. Getting the tenth-of-a-mile-long driveway plowed is problematic. I have now also filed a complaint with the Public Service Department.

I’ve now heard from a mutual friend that a gentleman, a double-amputee who lives with his wife on a dirt road just a couple of miles from the middle of town, can’t get FairPoint to fix his phone line either.*

[Update 12/8/14: Spoke to the man’s wife today. She said their line was repaired, took about a week. I said we were still waiting; her response: “well, you have two legs.” Yeah, there’s that.]

At best, FairPoint management’s pre-snowstorm confidence seems entirely misplaced:

Expressing confidence, a FairPoint spokesperson stressed the fill-in techs are experienced and well trained.

In a statement, FairPoint said despite the strike, network reliability hasn’t  been interrupted and emergency 911 service has been fully operational, though there have been a small number of customers who’ve been “inconvenienced” by the strike.

Especially given the post-storm Saturday disclosure of a nearly 6-hour outage* affecting 9-1-1 emergency reporting and dispatch services in “many communities” on Friday afternoon and evening. Guess who three weeks ago took over the contract for that?

[*corrected from 4]

So, between the company’s casual and negative response to its striking workers, the total lack of action or even communication regarding repairs, the inept handling of Vermont’s 9-1-1 service, and the increasing number of consumer complaints, it looks like calling FairPoint is a wrong number.  

Dear Governor Shumlin: The Base Has Taken You to the Woodshed

Dear Governor Shumlin,

Congratulations on having the Lt. Governor’s race turn out exactly the way you (and Floyd Neese, and Jeb Spaulding, etc.) intended: the Progressives got tagged with the loss, the Democrats didn’t (couldn’t) spend (“waste”) any of “your” money on it because of public financing restrictions, and you got your fair-haired, tame, “nice-guy” Republican for the “we-govern-in-a-bipartisan-manner” photo ops.

Too bad about Corren and the Democratic and Progressive base actually believing in your early “endorsement.” But then again, it's good for politicians and voters to know how much your endorsement is actually worth, since after your early “endorsement,” you went out of your way not to mention the Progressive potential ally on healthcare reform. We also know this tactic as throwing someone under the bus.

While (soon-to-be-former) Free Press political and State House reporters Nancy Remsen and Terri Hallenbeck and Seven Days columnist Paul Heintz have published many pages of election analysis, much of which was likely somewhat reassuring to you, I thought you should hear about the other side of your narrow plurality and the ways in which you, yourself, managed to, as my colleague Caoimhin Laochdha so aptly put it, “suppress [your] own vote.”

There was a split in the Democratic Party between the base that stayed home or symbolically voted ‘none of the above’ for Governor, and the old bulls (and moneyed interests with investments in your campaign fund) who’d rather support a Republican than a Progressive for Lt. Gov. And the pundits (with the notable exception of John Walters at The Vermont Political Observer here and here) are all looking at Dan Feliciano’s five points with “what if” eyes, instead of at the impact of your own faithlessness on voters who would likely have marked their ballots for you, but didn’t.

Just thought you should hear a different message than you have apparently taken away from the too-close election results, and that message is not about pandering further to tax-cuts-for-millionaires Republicans and DINOs. The message I heard in Franklin County — and GMD colleague Caoimhin Laochdha heard in Washington County — was one of disgust with your betrayal of Democratic ideals. Specifically:

==> Most of the folks identified on my call sheets (in a dozen hours of call-time volunteering, about 500 phone calls) as “leaning Democratic” said they would definitely not vote for you, even as they affirmed that they would definitely vote for Congressman Peter Welch.

==> An active Democratic volunteer and member of the County Committee, coming in the door and hearing me ask about Shumlin, demanded, “Shumlin?! Why are you asking about that guy?” with a tone of deep contempt. Answer: because you were essentially funding the operation through the Coordinated Campaign.

==> I talked face-to-face with nearly two dozen Democrats and Progressives over the course of the week leading up to the election, none of whom had voted (if they had voted early) or planned to vote for you. None had/would vote for Milne; most planned not to vote in the gubernatorial contest (with one or two “Let’s throw a few votes Dan’s way”).

This pattern also showed up in Washington County, which is philosophically and economically distant from Franklin County, and it should be concerning to you, Governor Shumlin. After reading the far-fetched post-election analysis from the Burlington Free Press, my Washington County colleague relayed his experience as follows:

It was an undisputed undercurrent in Washington Co. I heard loud and clear from too large a group of people that they either did, or planned to (1) “withhold” their vote for Gov. Shumlin and vote for no one; (2) skip early voting (which I took as uninspired gubernatorial apathy) or (3) vote for Feliciano as a 'safe' protest vote against Shumlin and/or too tweak the Republicans. (Number 3 was the least expressed view, but when you hear it a half dozen times, that's pretty significant). And then let's look at the difference between the Gov. Shumlin and [Progressive Senator Anthony] Pollina and Democratic Senator Ann Cummings, both of whom easily outpolled both Shumlin & Milne in Washington County [Note: the vote totals previously stated here are corrected, below, to reflect a serious transposition error in the number of votes received by Shumlin and Milne in Washington Co. — see vote comparisions in comments below. – cl]. These sentiments, alone, made the difference between Milne barely winning Washington Co. instead of Gov. Shumlin walking away easily with a 2,500 vote advantage

 And as John Walters noted in an email to me:

[Peter Shumlin] got 33,000 votes fewer than Peter Welch, for instance. Between that and the fact that voters returned a very solid D/P majority in the legislature, it's clear that a whole lot of reliably Democratic voters skipped the gubernatorial race or voted for someone else. And that doesn't even count the liberals who stayed home rather than opt for Shumlin.

So the message you need to take away, Governor Shumlin, is not how many Republicans voted for Milne, despite your stubborn protection of the tax-privileged one percent. It’s how many of the Democratic base a) stayed home rather than hold their noses and vote for you or b) voted, but not in the governor’s race (a weird kind of bullet voting that made Milne’s votes count more). It’s how many good Democrats and Progressive allies could not bring themselves to hold their noses and vote for a Democratic incumbent who would rather keep the top-bracket tax payers safe from any tax increase than keep our neighbors and their children from going hungry, shivering under jackets through a cold night, and not getting healthcare or buying needed medicines because they’re in the crack between eligibility for Health Connect drug subsidies and Medicaid or Medicare, and because of the total balls-up mess you’ve made of Vermont Health Connect.

And the message you should get, dear Governor Shumlin, is don’t bother pandering even more to Republicans, who campaigned on some vague concept of “affordability,” knowing in their hearts they were talking about making Vermont more “affordable” for the one percent, not for the rest of us (a version of “trickle-down” economics, which, as we all know, didn’t work for Reagan, Bush One, or Baby Bush, and helped crash the economy). They’re talking about slashing taxes, and thereby requiring cuts in services beyond those you’ve already demanded, resulting in, among other outcomes already mentioned, our neighbors trying to find the money for the property taxes when the Republicans have cut the income sensitivity funds.

The message, Mr. Shumlin, is this: raise the marginal income tax rates two percent for the one percent to fund needed services; stop playing guessing games with universal access, single-payer healthcare funding; and get Vermont Health Connect up and running.

Sincerely,

NanuqFC

Early Vote Crucial to Turn Out

Well, folks, guess what: I’ve already voted in the 2014 election.

I expect I’ll be busy on election day, November 4, and there are few real contests among statewide office holders, so why not?

That said, the down-ticket contests could be crucial to local districts, which makes it important to get out and vote!

In Grand Isle, for example, the hottest contest is for State’s Attorney. In the primary, Doug DiSabito, who has not held public office before, captured both the Republican and Democratic nominations, defeating long-time incumbent David Miller. Miller is running a spirited (one local observer called both campaigns “aggressive”) write-in campaign. It is noteworthy that in the primary election, 23 percent of eligible voters in Grand Isle cast ballots, one of the highest rates in the state for this year’s mostly lackluster primary.

In Franklin County, the major contest is in St Albans City. Incumbent Democrat Mike McCarthy is facing a serious challenge from Republican Corey Parent. In 2012 McCathy eked out a 15-vote win in a recount over Republican Casey Toof.

In the Franklin County state Senate races, newcomer Dr. Bill Roberts, a pain management specialist who also works with opiate addicts, and former Senator Sara Brannon Kittell are running against incumbent GOP Senator Norm McAllister and former state Rep. Dustin Degree. In 2012, Degree lost his bid for a senate seat by 35 votes in a recount.

Yeah, Franklin County was recount central two years ago.

With contests as close as these, you gotta know that your vote counts, that it matters!

The basics on voting NOW:

1. Go to your town or city clerk’s office during regular office hours and request an early/absentee ballot. OR download a “Request for Early Absentee Voter Ballot” form. Fill it out, mail it in or give to your city/town clerk.

2. You can vote right then and there, or take your ballot home and either mail it back or drop it off. Make sure to sign and date it ONLY in the marked spaces.

3. Return your ballot in the envelope by mail or in person to your city/town clerk before November 4, 2014.

4. Remind your friends and family to vote. Email them, put something up on your Facebook page, tweet them, call them on the telephone – whatever it takes to get them to vote.

All politics is local, and this year it’s even local-er than usual.

Please vote. Now. This week. Next week. On Halloween if that tickles your fancy. Or for the sake of tradition, on November 4. Just vote. Do it. Please.

Well Deserved Bravas

From Ernie McLeod at Vermont Freedom to Marry (where I saw it before I went out for a Free Press) comes this great news: two Vermont-connected lesbians are among the 20 MacArthur Foundation grant award winners for this year.

Mary Bonauto helped Beth Robinson and Susan Murray with the Baker v. State lawsuit that eventually resulted in the groundbreaking legislative recognition for same-sex couples that was civil unions. Vermont's was her first marriage equality case.  Bonauto lives in Maine and has worked on marriage equality in many states. Roberta Kaplan, the lawyer arguing for DOMA repeal on the Edie Windsor case against New york state in the Supreme Court, reportedly told The New York Times, "No gay person in this country would be married without Mary Bonauto."  

After her appearance in this morning's Burlington Free Press for her MacArthur Foundation fellowship grant, few Vermonters will need an introduction to Alison Bechdel, who has made her home in Bolton since 1991.

Bechdel is the creative genius behind Fun Home, a graphic memoir exploring her childhood and relationship with her possibly gay father. She followed that book with Are You My Mother?. And before that, for 25-plus years she drew and gave voice to a varied and diverse community of lesbians, bisexuals, and occasional gay, bi- or straight men in the syndicated comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For.  The MacArthur Foundation recognized Bechdel this way:

[Referring to Fun  Home] An impeccable observer and record-keeper, Bechdel incorporates drawings of archival materials, such as diaries, letters, photographs, and news clippings, as well as a variety of literary references in deep reflections into her own past. […]  As in Fun Home, the images in Are You My Mother? do not always correspond to or illustrate the words; rather, they mutually interpret or often tug against each other, creating a space between them that invites a multiplicity of interpretations.

 

Brava! to both women for well-deserved recognition and congratulations on the grant of funds ($625k) that help provide security on which to base future endeavors.

DMV: From “License” to “Privilege” with a Yellow Star

Have you received your driver’s license renewal notice from the Vermont DMV recently?

It comes with plenty of changes, none of them good for anyone concerned with privacy and records protection.

In fact, mine came with this scary poster:

 photo poster_zpscd23c22f.jpg

And the kicker (one wonders whether some DMV employee has a sense of irony … nah) is the bottom line:

Thank you for helping us keep America safe.

Here are your license renewal options: Get a “Real ID”- compliant driver’s license (and for that you get what they call a “gold star”); OR get a “Driver’s Privilege Card,” good for a maximum of two years, and marked in a scary red banner:

NOT FOR FEDERAL IDENTIFICATION

For those who don’t know what “Real ID” means:

1. In effect, the state no longer regulates the issuance of driver’s licenses and non-driver’s identification cards; the federal government does.

2. In about 18 months, the United States will have established a de facto national identity card, without which you cannot board a plane or enter any federal building (with the likely exception of the Post Office).

3. The REAL ID Act imposes on states, now including Vermont, federal regulations on data retention and storage; documents required to issue a driver’s license (see below); and the linking of databases, to name just a few.

Think about it.

Some of the most infamous tyrannies (think Germany in the late 1930s, or South Africa in the 1970s) required that their citizens carry their national ID cards with them at all times, subject to severe penalties, or even the suspicions/whims of a cop having a bad day.

[REAL ID document requirements and latest local intrusions after the jump.]

REAL IDs cannot be issued in Vermont unless you renew your license in person at a DMV office.

You must bring with you 3 forms of ID:

  • passport and/or name change documents, including marriage or civil union certificate;
  • at least one document containing your social security number
    • your social security card
    • a W-2
    • 1099
    • or a pay stub);
  • two pieces of mail with name & street address, or if you’re using a PO box,
    • copies of property tax bill
    • utility bill
    • property insurance policy.

If you’ve got all that, you get a “gold” star for your REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or non-driver ID. And, the contents of all those “proof of identity and residence” documents will be encoded onto your REAL-ID gold-star Vermont (hah) Driver’s License.

If not, or if you choose to renew by mail, no gold star for you! instead, you get the scary, red banner NOT FOR FEDERAL IDENTIFICATION on your 2-year “Driver’s Privilege Card,” after which time you have to come up with the documents for your federal national identity document.

So let’s remember that, originally, your social security number was only to be used for, um, your social security account and related tax forms. Right. Now, think of all the places you are asked for your social security number.

Now imagine how many places will refuse to accept any identification other than the gold-star REAL ID: federally chartered banks, federal courts, the aforementioned airlines, grocery stores validating debit and credit cards, car dealerships, insurance companies, clinics and hospitals receiving federal funds.

Imagine how suspiciously the state cop will regard you when you offer your “Driver Privilege Card” with your insurance card the next time you have a taillight out or you’re traveling a mite fast.

And now imagine how undocumented migrant workers might feel, since, according to current DMV website examples and a statement at the top of the renewal form I received, the non-REAL-ID-compliant “license” is the same card that they get: a “Driver’s Privilege Card.”

Vermont’s DMV already has scanned every driver’s license photo it has into a digital database, which is potentially available to any federal or state investigator for any reason – or none. All they have to do is ask. And now the askers will have access to your property tax bill, your home owner’s or renter’s insurance policy, and what you’re paying for utilities and to whom.

 photo license_zpsa6a1ed67.jpg

The final intrusion is, to the best of my recollection, a brand new renewal question, regardless of which brand of driver ID document you get:

4. Do you have a history of any physical or mental condition including diabetes, epilepsy, seizures or blackouts, (other than properly corrected eyesight) that could affect your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle?

Answering yes requires explanation and details of medications.

Which means that suddenly the DMV has your health information in its files, available to anyone who has access to DMV records, and apparently without any of the protections built into healthcare records elsewhere.

And what if you say no? Will the DMV check into healthcare records to confirm or challenge your answer? On what authority?

This is not the security state: it’s the surveillance state. And Vermont has surrendered.

Thank you, Vermont DMV, for helping “us” keep America submissive and surveilled.

Ripe for Protest: Retired NSA Chief Speaks at Norwich Graduation

There was a teeny little piece in the Freep that caught my eye a few weeks ago announcing commencement speakers for area colleges and universities, presumably culled from press releases. On the list was Norwich University’s announcement of its commencement speaker, also released on its website:

Commencement: General Keith Alexander

Former director of the National Security Agency General Keith Alexander will be Norwich University’s 2014 commencement speaker.

Alexander, who completed his 39-year Army career on March 28, 2014, served as the commander of the U.S. Cyber Command and director National Security Agency and chief of the Central Security Service.

Norwich university’s website offers a bit more on Gen. Alexander’s former job responsibilites:

As the NSA director and CSS chief, he was responsible for protecting national security, foreign signals intelligence, combat support, and protecting U.S. national security information systems.

I wonder how many times General Alexander has been asked about spying on Angela Merkel. Or the rest of us. And about Edward Snowden.

If you check out the (former) cyber spy chief’s interview with John Oliver for his new show Last Week Tonight, you’ll get material unlikely to be seen or heard at this Saturday’s commencement (such as Alexander’s embrace of Oliver’s rebranding suggestion, “The only government agency that really listens”).

From Norwich’s commencement info:

On Saturday, May 10, at 2 p.m. during commencement exercises Alexander will address approximately 400 students matriculating from 33 undergraduate programs and one master’s program. The ceremony, which is free and open to the public, will be held in Shapiro Field House.

[emphasis added]

Will activists show up on Saturday to protest the violation of privacy of ordinary citizens by the National Security state? Stay tuned.

Sally Fox: A Public Service Life Comes to a Close

Sen. Sally Fox, public advocate extraordinaire, has died after a two-year battle with lung cancer.

According to reports on Vt Digger, House Speaker Shap Smith made the announcement Friday to a shocked chamber of legislators, many of whom had been her colleagues during her seven terms in the House. She was in the middle of her second term in the Senate. According to the story in the Free Press (limited free access) Senate President Pro-tem John Campbell called her “courageous and passionate in fighting for people who couldn’t fight for themselves.”

I met Sally Fox a few times, and was inspired and impressed. Hers was clearly a public service life, dedicated to speaking up for those with less access to power. She was kind and smart and did terrific work. She will be missed by thousands of people, some of whom might not ever have known who she was or what she did to make their lives better.

Our hearts and thoughts go out to her husband and children and to all those who must find a way to carry on without her voice, her compassion, her presence to make justice real in this world.