Friday, December 31, 2010

An Orwellian Nightmare

The first post of what became The Road System series. 

Originally published  September 18, 2007

An Orwellian Nightmare

mood: In fear for the Republic

What follows may seem like some of the most intense Pants Shitting Hysteria you've ever come across.  It may seem outlandish by its intrusiveness and manor of implementation.  But it is all too real.  I can see it as if it were already in place today.  In fact, they are working diligently toward implementing it right now…

Yesterday morning I was awakened to the sound of my clock radio going to the news.  The one report that stood out (and that I actually remember) was about the Marxistchusetts state commission that was supposedly looking into finding the funding to repair the states roads and bridges.  What first caught my attention was the call to raise the gas tax by (not to) eleven and a half cents a gallon.  That would bring the state gas tax - that we don’t really see each time we pay it - to thirty five cents on every gallon we buy.  I can clearly remember my grandfather complaining vociferously about the price per gallon being at the ungodly high rate of thirty-two and nine tenths cents per gallon including the tax!  We’d all spontaneously burst out singing the Hallelujah Chorus if we ever found gas that cheap today!

The part of the report that stuck in the back of my alleged mind was the call for a per mile ‘road use tax’ on people who use the highway system.  I think it was something like five cents a mile that they want to levy on us. 

My first thought was that this is not practical.  Can you imagine the nightmare commute if everyone had to stop at the Wakefield tolls on 128 during rush hour?  Then again in Burlington when they get on Rout 3?  And we think it’s bad now!  Or they could divide the number of miles of highway driven each year by the number of licensed drivers in the state and send us all a bill.  That wouldn’t be fair to people who never drive on the highway and would give a free pass to all of the out of state drivers who use our roads.  So that doesn’t work either.

Then I came across this story at this afternoon that expanded on how it will work.
Make no mistake.  This is coming.

The article says said, it’s been edited to remove this line, that the tolls would be collected by an ‘open highway toll system.’  Like the FastLane system on steroids. 

If you look while you are traveling down the highway you will occasionally see rectangles cut into the road that take up almost the entire lane.  There are sometimes two per lane about five feet apart and a set in each lane on the road.  Under those rectangles are pressure sensors.  They are just like the ones at most traffic lights these days that tell the computer there is a car waiting for the light to turn green.  They work by sensing the weight of the car pressing on the road or by using a magnetometer (like in a metal detector) to sense the presence of a vehicle.  The ones on the highway are there to monitor traffic flow and road usage.  They count cars but they can’t tell whose car it is.

That is all about to change.

The new system, as I envision it, will use an enhanced FastLane transponder to tell the tax monitor whose car is where on the highway.  You cross a reader at the on ramp and – PING! – you’re logged in.  You cross over another when you take the off ramp and – PING! – the computer records you getting off the highway.  The miles are automatically tallied up and your account is automatically debited the tax for the miles you’ve traveled.  All nice and neat and automatic.  No tolls to wait in line at.  No bills to get in the mail and write a check for.  No fuss no muss.

And no more privacy.

That record in the government computer becomes part of your tax records and is kept on file for as long as government tax records are kept.  Not just the miles – but where your car was and when.  All so your tax records can be audited.  To make sure they don’t overcharge you.  So they say…

Phase one was the test phase with today’s EZ-Pass or FastLane system.  It works and We the People are getting used to the idea.  Phase two was just announced on the radio yesterday morning as a proposed tax measure supposedly to pay for fixing the roads and bridges.  Phase three will be the requirement that all cars on the public’s roads will have to have these transponders or you can’t use the road.

Remember, this is a proposed tax.  It’s going in the tax code.  It’s not from the big scary Department of Homeland Security or the NSA.  It’s to pay for roads.  So they say…

What about the local roads?  Once we are all required to have a transponder even if we abandon the highway for the unmonitored local roads we will still not be safe.  The traffic lights will eventually be retrofitted with transponder readers instead of the weight sensors they have now.  When you pull up to a light – PING! – your presence is recorded and the light will turn green.  And another record is entered in the database.

“Why was your car at the corner of Main and Pleasant Streets at two AM?” asks Officer Friendly.

“How should I know?” says Joe Driver “I was at home in bed at two AM.  I don’t know who was using my car…”

Problem solved by technology:

Enter the card reader.  To activate the transponders in phase four you will have to swipe your card.  (Real ID perhaps?)  And to make sure someone hasn’t borrowed your card as well as your car you’ll also need your PIN – just like at the ATM.  Then Officer Friendly will know it was you behind the wheel at the light on Hooker Street at two thirty AM.  And so will your wife’s lawyer when he subpoenas the records.  Even if you were going to the local Stop and Rob for a box of Pampers because the misses “forgot” to get them when she was out.  The Stop and Rob doesn’t have the sensor so you’ll have to use your AmEx to establish for the court that you were buying diapers.  (Be sure to pay cash for the condoms even if you and the misses are just trying to avoid needing even more diapers…)

But even before we get to that point the government will come up with another form of revenue from this ‘wonderful new system’ in the form of automatically debited speeding fines.  That highway ramp you got on 495 at?  It takes thirty-five minutes to get to the ramp you got off at if you travel at the speed limit.  How come you only took twenty eight?  ChaChing!  Your account was just debited the fine for traveling at the average speed you would have had to be going to have gotten there that fast.  And if you want to fight it in court you risk having the fine doubled for wasting the court’s time since the computer has already found you guilty.

If you doubt that revenue will be generated this way the speed limits would be enforced this way I can tell you about my Grandfather having that very problem on the Maine Turnpike a long time ago.  At that time you used to pick up an IBM punch card that listed where you got on the highway.  You handed it in at the toll when you got off and they calculated your toll based on the number of miles traveled.  Then they started time stamping the cards.  The state knew how long it would take to get from toll to toll at the speed limit and if you didn’t take that long you would be issued a speeding ticket.  How much easier will that be when it’s all computerized and they just read your transponder ID at the off ramp?

So you forgot to reregister your car?  Or did the inspection sticker run out?  Or heaven forbid your license was suspended for any reason?  That traffic light will never turn green.  The transponder will tell the computer it’s you and the computer will not change the light.  If you run the red light the cameras will record the event as evidence against you.

Don’t even think of trying to drive with your transponder disabled!  What are you?  Some kind of tax cheat?  Remember – this is all part of the TAX CODE!  By not having your transponder active you are engaging in tax evasion!  The government takes that more seriously than violent crime!  They didn’t get Al Capone on murder or corruption charges or even bootlegging.  The Feds got him for tax evasion!  You’ll never get a green light anyway.  The transponder is what tells the light to turn.  While you sit there waiting for the light that will never turn green, the Responsible Government Agents will have been alerted to your unlawful presence on the governments road.  The computer will have a tow truck meet the Responsible Government Agent, and you, at the light.

Eventually, and this will take years, every intersection will have a transponder reader, even if it doesn’t have traffic lights.  Why bother with high speed chases when you can just sit back in the control room and monitor the transponder signals?  When the car stops the cruisers that are converging on the area will drive on over and capture the suspect.  You can run, but you cannot hide.

Phase five is when things really get nuts. 

After the drunks and scofflaws and worse, the tax evaders come to the public’s attention (via press releases run as “news” in the online editions of what were once news papers) the public will clamor for the card reader to not only activate the transponder but to be capable of disabling the car if the driver has a suspended license or the car’s inspection sticker has expired.  It’s all there in the database.  They won’t roll that in right away.  After all, there might be an emergency and you need to transport the wife to the hospital because you forgot to buy the condoms at the Stop and Rob that night and now she’s going into labor.  If the car is disabled you’ll have to wait for the next available Hillerycare ambulance and that could take days to schedule.  But give them a little time and a few drunks with suspended licenses killing people on the road despite their disabled transponder and the sheeple will demand that the car itself be disabled based on the records in this database.  There won’t be a transponder signal in the driveway.  The car will be shut down at the next transponder equipped intersection.  That way they can fine you for driving when you weren’t supposed to.  More revenue for our Responsible Government Agents.

As far fetched as this sounds, all of the technology to do all of this exists today.  It will cost tens of millions (read billions in government spending) to implement.  But it can all be paid for by the road use tax.  You know, the money that was supposed to go to fixing the roads and bridges?  Well we have to implement this system first…

With this system in place there will be no need for a guardhouse at each point of entry into each state to check us for our travel papers.  Our transponder will do that for us.  An automated electronic internal passport.  Oooow, you have a CCW in New Hampshire.  You can’t drive into Massachusetts until we search you car to make sure you haven’t ‘forgotten’ to leave your piece at home.

As I’ve already said: Make no mistake.  This is coming.  And there is very little we can do to stop it.

Can it be stopped?

I believe it can.  But it will take our combined efforts to kill this.  It may take a revolution to remove it once enough people see just how insidious this really is.  Unfortunately, by then it may be too late.

Interestingly enough there is a way to kill this built right into the Bill of Rights.  This technology didn’t exist ten or fifteen years ago.  So how could the Founding Fathers of our nation have prepared for this over two hundred years ago?

Amendment III

“No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”

At the time the Constitution was written there were no means of electronically recording or monitoring anything including people.  The surveillance society of the time was accomplished by actually having soldiers quartered in the homes of the people.  Against their will.  John Q. Public is not going to plan an insurrection with half a dozen soldiers living in his house and monitoring his every move.  Today that is all done electronically.  Your purchases are all recorded on your debit card statement.  Your email is all there for any hacker to read – including the ones in the employ of the government.  Your phone can easily be tapped and if you have a Middle Eastern sounding name it probably is tapped.  Your cell phone is location aware.  Google that for more details.  Even if you pay cash at the store, they all have video cameras.  On a private level I don’t so much mind the cameras.  But when it comes to this new tax law – and I can not stress this enough: this is a tax law – this kind of electronic surveillance is chilling in exactly in the same way as having soldiers living in your home.  This is exactly the kind of government monitoring and control that the Third Amendment was written to prevent.

If I may paraphrase a line from The Prisoner:

‘I am not a transponder code, I’m a free man!’

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