Your government (not) at work

Reduce MY energy

governmentYour government (not) at work are a few stories that engaged my interest:

There was a terrible report about a young driver who killed seven motorcyclists in a New Hampshire crash this spring. In light of that, Massachusetts suspended more than 500 drivers licenses.

“The [Massachusetts] Registry of Motor Vehicles failed to act on information sent from other states that called for the suspension of some drivers’ licenses… The dismal driving history of the man charged with [the horrific accident] — coupled with bureaucratic failures in Massachusetts that allowed him to keep his license — highlight weaknesses in the state and federal systems designed to keep unsafe drivers off the road.

“The case of 23-year-old Volodymyr Zhukovskyy has exposed a patchwork system of oversight that’s reliant on the actions of individual states, many of which use a slow-moving, paper-driven communication network.”

There were primaries in New York State in late June, and I noted these results in a town in Albany County.
Earl H. Barcomb . . . . . . . . 179 34.82
Dennis P. Barber . . . . . . . . 178 34.63
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 157 30.54
Of course, the two candidates won. But if the write-in count had exceeded 178 votes, the Board of Elections would have had to start differentiating WHO got those write-ins.

Last month, I got this message at work: “This is a reminder to turn your lights off today as a participant in this year’s ‘2019 Daylight Hour’, from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm. Daylight Hour is an effort to raise awareness of energy savings and the impact humans can have on saving energy. This message is to encourage all SUNY System Administration, SUCF, and RF employees to join this effort by shutting off all unnecessary lights from noon to 1 pm today.

“Many of our campuses have already signed up for this event. Plaza Operations will be lowering corridor and lobby lighting during this time period. We ask that all participants turn off their work space and office lighting where possible. Behavioral impact can be much greater than most people recognize. This event will help illustrate the impact our decisions have on our overall energy costs.”

I dutifully complied. I couldn’t get much done at work that hour because I couldn’t really read my keyboard. The dimmed lighting also made me sleepy. I wrote to a colleague: “Reduce energy AND kill productivity!”

Getting REAL ID, as opposed to a fake one

I had blocked out four hours for the task of getting a REAL ID.

I have known about the REAL ID program for some time. Passed by Congress in 2005, it requires that “the Federal Government ‘set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses'” in the wake of 9/11.

“The Act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards.”

With my card expiring on my last birthday, I looked on the NYS DMV page. Boy, they wanted a LOT for a REAL ID!

*Proof of identity, such as valid license, birth certificate or passport…
*Proof of Social Security Number (or Social Security Number ineligibility)
*Proof of your date of birth
*Proof of U.S. citizenship, lawful permanent residency or temporary lawful status in the U.S.
*Two different proofs of New York State residence such as utility bill, bank statement or mortgage statement

I brought all sorts of documents, including my phone bill, my bank statement, a credit card bill, and who knows what else that was lying around, but it took me an hour to gather it all because so much of what I pay is online and automatic.

Terrible stories about the DMV abound, so I had blocked out four hours for the task. I went to the first person, who was the gatekeeper. She sent me to a counter, and the clerk looked at all my documents but decided she needed only three: my current DMV card, my passport (still current), and my most recent W-2 tax form.

She sent me to another counter where that clerk verified the info. I got the picture taken, she wished me “Happy birthday,” and I was out of there in about 20 minutes total. Way too easy, for a change.

Doesn’t REAL ID, all in CAPS, seem vaguely Freudian?

The card came two weeks later. An odd thing is that it’s black and white, which is more difficult to forge, I take it? Moreover, my glasses look as though someone drew them in with a Sharpie. And I’ll have it for eight years.

I got the ENHANCED version, which cost $30 more, so when I get deported to Mexico, I can come back. Seriously, it DOES allow one to “cross a U.S. border coming from Canada, Mexico, and some Caribbean countries.”

The ZIP Code 12345, as shown in this sample, BTW, is the actual code for General Electric in Schenectady, NY.

Traveling to Canada?

I was the target market for the Enhanced DMV card, but I declined.

My family will be going to Canada, specifically Ontario, in the summer of 2011 for an international reunion of my wife’s people. This will be the fourth quinquennial event – in 1996, it was in Fargo, ND; in 2001, in Binghamton, NY; and in 2006, in eastern Washington state.

As it turns out, my passport expires about a month before the trip. Initially, I was interested in getting those Enhanced Licenses and Non-Drivers’ IDs for the daughter and me from DMV, which would meet the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative guidelines. Only four U.S. states have actually done this, and, shockingly, given the inertia of Empire State government, New York State is one of them, along with Michigan, Vermont and Washington, all border states with Canada.

There was an article in my local newspaper in early June, indicating that sales of new enhanced driver’s licenses had fallen far below projections. The theory was that the card failed as a result of “the poor economy and reduced travel to other countries.” That’s not why I didn’t get a couple of them.

Rather, there were two other factors, especially the latter:
1) getting the enhanced card would have involved actually going to DMV, whereas renewing my old card, which expired on my last birthday, I processed either by mail or online.
2) The enhanced card is specifically designed for cross-border travel into the U.S. by land or sea.

This means no air travel, only entry by car, truck, train, boat, or presumably, on foot. Thus, if we were to fly to Vancouver, British Columbia in the near future, the daughter and I would STILL need our passports. (So would my wife, but hers doesn’t expire for a few years.)

I was the target market for this product, and I declined, not because I’m homebound, but because the product simply proved insufficient for my needs, unfortunately.
Meanwhile, there is the G-20 meeting going on this week in Toronto. The U.S. President wants the other governments to spend more to stimulate the ecnomy, but at least the G-8 leaders are looking like the Republicans in the U.S. in opposising more spending, the tension over which is currently doing a job on the stock markets.

I’m a big supporter of protest – peaceful protest – but I’m unclear as to the efficacy of breaking building windows and setting at least one police car on fire. Maybe someone can explain it to me.

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