Sunday, October 28, 2012

Have a cigar, you're going to go far...

Leslie and I were in a room, high on a hill. We were living in a different age, an age when the government had finally achieved its darpaesque goal of total information awareness. Every one of our actions, associates, comments, every keystroke, every search, movement and thought we had made or ever contemplated making was now inputted into a large, central, master government computer. We were required in this Orwellian world to keep our televisions on at all times. The television allowed the authorities to both keep tabs on us and to chart our compliance. 

On the bottom of the set was a tabulator, much like a taxi meter, that added and subtracted, mostly subtracted, from a running total that charted our net balance with the governmental machine. Subversive thoughts or actions judged to be contrary to society's parameters resulted in swift and immediate penalties, including violence at the hands of the authorities.

Somehow I had run afoul of the beast. Last night's dream, now receding from memory, was a recount of my Kafka like efforts to evade its clutches.

I read an interesting article the other day about the San Antonio school system, now requiring students to carry around an identification card with an RFID chip so that they can be accounted for at all times. A few parents and students spoke out in opposition, fearing a myriad of potential abuses with the system, but most went along with the program without a peep. The schools feel that they have every right to track the students. From Slate:

"...Gonzalez, the school district's communications director, maintains that students have never had an expectation of privacy on campus. "By virtue of the fact that you are a student at a school, there is no privacy."

The ACLU put out a position paper on chip free schools that has an interesting couple of bullets.
• Dehumanizing uses. While there is an expectation of supervision and guidance in schools, monitoring the detailed behaviors of individuals can be demeaning. For example, RFID reading devices in school restrooms could monitor how long a student or teacher spends in a bathroom stall.
• Violation of free speech and association. ... For example, students might avoid seeking counsel when they know their RFID tags will document their presence at locations like counselor and School Resource Officer (SRO) offices.
• Conditioning to tracking and monitoring. Young people learn about the world and prepare for their futures while in school. Tracking and monitoring them in their development may condition them to accept constant monitoring and tracking of their whereabouts and behaviors. This could usher in a society that accepts this kind of treatment as routine rather than an encroachment of privacy and civil liberties.
You can make a case for a school that makes money off of enrollment and attendance wanting to know where its kids are. What I found thought provoking was the last point, that the whole exercise helped acclimatize and condition children to a world that is increasing becoming one of total surveillance. They can already be tracked through their phones and the social networks. A small jump to wearing a chip.
We willingly adopt the yoke.

Huffpo had an interesting article on the subject from John Whithead, Are America's Schools Breeding Grounds for Compliant Citizens?  It contained the following quote from Professor Henry Giroux:

"Public school reform is now justified in the dehumanizing language of national security, which increasingly legitimates the transformation of schools into adjuncts of the surveillance and police state... students are increasingly subjected to disciplinary apparatuses which limit their capacity for critical thinking, mold them into consumers, test them into submission, strip them of any sense of social responsibility and convince large numbers of poor minority students that they are better off under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system than by being valued members of the public schools." 

Interesting piece earlier this year at Salon by Steven Rosenfeld about President Obama and his pitiful record in regards to civil liberties titled Obama's dismal civil liberties record. The constitutional law expert has delivered no "change we can believe in" in this regard, often permitting excesses that might even make George Bush's one and two blanche.
President Obama now has power that Bush never had. Foremost is he can (and has) ordered the killing of U.S. citizens abroad who are deemed terrorists. Like Bush, he has asked the Justice Department to draft secret memos authorizing his actions without going before a federal court or disclosing them. Obama has continued indefinite detentions at Gitmo, but also brought the policy ashore by signing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which authorizes the military to arrest and indefinitely detain anyone suspected of assisting terrorists, even citizens. That policy, codifying how the Bush administration treated Jose Padilla, a citizen who was arrested in a bomb plot after landing at a Chicago airport in 2002 and was transferred from civil to military custody, upends the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878’s ban on domestic military deployment.
“We are witnessing the bipartisan normalization and legitimization of a national security state,” Jack Balkin, a liberal Yale University Law School professor, told the New Yorker in a 2011 feature about a prominent NSA whistle-blower. “The question is not whether we will have a surveillance state in the years to come, but what sort of state we will have,” he wrote in a prescient law review article published early in Obama’s presidency.

The larger dangers, Balkin said, was that the government is creating a “parallel track of preventative law enforcement that bypasses traditional protections in the Bill of Rights.” Moreover, he worries “traditional law enforcement and social services will increasingly resemble the parallel track.” And because the Constitution only restricts government actions, not “private parties, government has increasing incentives to rely on private enterprise to collect and generate information for it.”

“The major defining feature of the Obama administration on this issue is the eagerness with which it embraced the stunning evisceration of civil rights and liberties that was a hallmark of the Bush administration, and then deepened those outrageous programs,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, who is an attorney representing many Occupy protesters swept up in last fall’s mass arrests. “He has successfully counted on the acquiescent silence of the liberals.”

Do I think things would be any different under President Romney? Doubtful and debatable. Did I expect more from Barack Obama? Yes, I did.


Anonymous said...

I for one applaud your story....Where are your other readers???


Ken Seals said...

It's not a dream, it's a vision...

Anonymous said...

Right on! Can't believe that American society in 2012 is even talking about this - or is it 1812??