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August 29, 2008

Looks Like We Fixed It

Quote of the Day:
“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
— George Orwell (“Animal Farm” 1945)

Subject: We think we fixed the website problem

If you’ve had the “white page” problem (rendered in some browsers as an “error message”) with our website over the past month, please try to use it again today. We think we’ve fixed it.

We’ve installed new servers, as well as updated the operating system and software. A group of DC Downsizers did a beta test this week and it went well — no “white pages” or “error messages.” But the real test will be for hundreds or thousands of you to try and use the system at the same time. Let’s test it by sending a bunch of messages to Congress!

We’ll use our campaign against TWIC for the big test. Remember, TWIC is a backdoor attempt to implement the REAL ID national identity card, one industry at a time. If you already know about the TWIC program you can send your message using our new, Educate the Powerful System.

If you’re unsure of why TWIC is so bad, or you would value more information about it, here’s some additional startling information . . .

Congress, through the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA), has directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to issue a biometric transportation security credential to . . .

 * Any individual with unescorted access to secure areas of facilities and vessels,
 * Mariners holding Coast Guard issued credentials or qualification documents.

Occupations covered will include longshoreman, truckers, port employees, and employees on ships involved in transporting passengers or hazardous materials, or intending to use ports registered with the system. This effectively covers the entire maritime industry, and part of the trucking industry too.

Allegedly, this program was passed to provide greater port security. You’ve heard the theoretical fables of terrorists sneaking a dirty bomb into the country via a trans-Atlantic shipping container. But it’s important to understand that that is NOT what TWIC is about. Here’s why . . .

Ocean port shipping is called blue-water. But the law is being applied to the brown-water shipping industry — the inland, domestic waterways (lakes, rivers, and streams). The breadth and reach of TWIC exposes the true nature of the program… It’s a backdoor scheme to rope every American into the totalitarian Real ID national ID card. After all, there’s never been a terrorist incident in the brown-water portion of the maritime industry, and little reason to believe there ever would be sufficient risk to justify the damage this program will do to the industry.

The TWIC program will deliver a severe blow to the brownwater industry and its employees. As Joel Milton, who works on towing vessels, wrote:

 “Many of today’s major towing companies had humble origins, getting their start with a single small vessel. Today, an enterprising mariner with his or her own boat has almost no chance.”

Boats will need to have their own, compliant “card readers.” The American Waterways Operators estimate the cost at $12,000 a piece. And just the brownwater, tugboat industry alone is expected to cough up $40 million for the readers. Somebody is about to make lots of money off this new government mandate.

TWIC is also likely to have a negative effect on an industry that’s already having a hard time finding reliable workers. That’s because the new law, as enhanced by the bureaucrats at the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) (who shouldn’t be Writing the Laws anyway), re-punishes people who’ve made mistakes in the past and who have already paid their debt to society. Here’s how the New York Times put it . . .

 “…bad-check writers might reasonably be excluded from working in banks. But this offense should not be disqualifying for port laborers who have gone on to live crime-free lives.”

But that’s not all. According to section 1572.103 of the TSA’s final rule, it appears that fireworks offenses could be permanently disqualifying. And drug-related offenses (surprise, surprise) carry a seven year “unemployment sentence” (or five years following release from prison). A misleading statement on the TWIC application carries the same seven year penalty. And Lord help the maritime worker who is under warrant or indictment: He or she is disqualified until the charges are dismissed. (Innocent until proved guilty? Not in a post-9/11 America.)

Even teenagers are feeling the pinch. A 16-year old girl in Juneau, Alaska, who works a summer job on a small passenger cruise boat, was told by her boss that his margin is too thin — if he has to install and enforce TWIC, he’ll close the business. You can read her desperate note at the Washington Watch blog.

Please send a message to Congress asking them to end this back-door Real ID card. Tell your Representative and Senator you want the TWIC program defunded and closed. You can send your message using our Educate the Powerful System.

Please also consider making a contribution to help us make budget for August. It’s been a rough month and we need your help. You can contribute here.

Thank you for being a part of the growing Downsize DC army.

Jim Babka
President
DownsizeDC.org, Inc.

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