Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Good morning to you all. Things keep chugging along over here with nothing much new. The weather is as unpredictable as the stock market. Only one month of this year to go. Time seems to go faster each year.

I found this little New York Times article by way of MSNBC. It didn't really surprise me that many areas of the South are planning 150th anniversary celebrations of the Civil War and that they are doing so in a way that focuses on succession. Nor is it as surprising to me as it is to the author of the article that they intend to do so without mentioning the issue of slavery. About 12 years ago a fellow history grad student/teaching assistant was incensed when the professor (a temporary one-year hire) she had been assigned to assist wanted to teach the early 19th century section of the U.S. History Survey without mentioning slavery. She made sure that her sections heard a lot about how integral the issue was to the political and economic developments of the time. You can always hide a multitude of sins in how you formulate issues. By focusing on succession and the theory of states rights you hide the issue of slavery and the equally nasty issue of how 'free' labor was treated in the North.

Red Tape Chronicles (also at MSNBC) has an interesting article this morning on ID theft and the use of social security numbers. I had heard about the U.S. Supreme Court case from last year but not the details. As I read parts of the article I had a couple of thoughts that made me wonder about the logic of the decisions. One of the hypotheticals we thought of was pointed out at the end of the article--the problem of what would happen if someone skipped out on a debt and the creditor went after the legitimate holder of the SSN. We thought of two other nasty possibilities. The legitimate worker retires and finds that earnings have been credited to his account that aren't his. That could really mess up his/her situation and cause a financial crisis. Or, the IRS notices a discrepancy on the tax return and goes after the worker for taxes on earning he/she had no idea were assigned to his/her number. Originally, the social security number was issued for one purpose and one purpose only--to keep track of contributions to the system so the amount a retiree was due could be accurately assessed. But over time the number has become a convenient identifier for all sorts of other purposes. It has become THE identifying number for most of us and when someone else, knowingly or not, appropriates it it IS identity theft. It is sad that the so-called justice system has failed to recognize that basic fact.

My only comment on this MSNBC story is "Welcome to the modern world." Modern life comes with downsides. Pollution is one of them and, unfortunately, once generated it goes where it damned well pleases.