Tag: national public radio

Photo ID Laws Mean Some Won’t Vote

Because all of us are with ourselves all day every day, we naturally tend to think that our own lives are pretty standard fare. But that’s just not so in a country of 300+ million people ranging over a vast expanse. So I found worthwhile this NPR story on people who don’t have IDs, people who face difficulty with laws requiring IDs to vote. Not everyone trundles down to the DMV and plunks down money and paperwork for an ID whenever they please.

The voter ID issue is a hot one. Some are strongly committed to the idea that identification requirements are needed to suppress voter fraud. There isn’t much evidence of that problem, and to worry about impersonation fraud at polling places, one has to put aside absentee ballot fraud, which is probably much easier, as well as election fraud—rigged vote counts, for example—which is much more efficient.

States should tinker with their voting rules and processes, each seeking for itself the methods that optimally secure elections while facilitating voting. It’s a big country, and different states may require different rules. My emphasis has always been on avoiding a national voter ID system, which would inevitably be a national ID system, paving the way for greater federal control of individuals’ lives.

NPR — A New Target for Harkin?

Secret recordings apparently revealing rampant dirty dealing. Big headlines. Taxpayer dollars wrapped up in it all. Surely all this ugliness — even if it turns out that the reality isn’t nearly as bad as inital reports make it sound — is coming from the favorite target of Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), evil for-profit colleges!

Nope. It’s National Public Radio. And I assume Harkin and his pals will give NPR the exact same over-the-coals treatment they’ve been giving for-profit schools.

OK, I’m probably not able to assume that at all — but I should be.

‘The End of Privacy’ and the Surveillance-Industrial Complex

National Public Radio’s All Things Considered ran a series on “The End of Privacy” all last week that’s worth a listen. They’re primarily concerned with the ways private companies have access to vast quantities of information about individuals in the digital age—something that civil libertarians have traditionally been less concerned about than government access, for many perfectly valid reasons.  But it’s worth noting how porous that distinction can be.  A 2006 survey by the Government Accountability Office found that just four government agencies—the Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security, State Department, and Social Security Administration—spent at least $30 million annually on contracts with information resellers like Choicepoint. The vast majority of that data (91%) was used for law enforcement or counterterror purposes.  And GAO found that the resellers weren’t always in full compliance with the privacy practices that the agencies themselves are supposed to follow.

Choicepoint, coincidentally, is one of the largest clients of the consulting firm run by former Attorney General John Ashcroft. Little wonder given the amount of cash at stake: As reporter Tim Shorrock has documented, some 70 percent of our vast intelligence budget is channeled through private-sector contractors, which means that we need to understand government surveillance policy in the context of a “surveillance-industrial complex” that parallels the more familiar military-industrial complex known for bringing us $600 toilet seats and other forms of pork in camo gear. It’s worth bearing in mind that it’s not just investigatory zeal and public fear driving the expansion of the surveillance state—a lot of people are making a lot of money off it as well.