Fri 7 Apr 2006
I am not a barcode .. I am a free man!
ICAME across a frightening article on my current travels that filled me with gloom and foreboding (any number of permutations possible here, all of which involve Hearts).
Saudi Arabia is to trial a new dashboard-mounted satellite-based system that displays the speed limit of the road you are travelling on and the actual speed you are doing.
If you are breaking the speed limit you are given a warning to reduce your speed. If you consistently ignore this warning the word "TICKET" then flashes up and a speeding ticket is sent to your home address.
Very good, you might say, just imagine how that will make all the drivers in Edinburgh obey the speed limits. Well, maybe. Then again, given that so many nutters drive without owning the proper documents of insurance or even a licence, it will be the majority of reasonable drivers that will be clobbered while the really dangerous offenders will remain untraceable.
What is disturbing is that it is another example of how the State will be in possession of even more information about you and your whereabouts.
Put this little device - which at any given time obviously knows what street you're on, or at least what street your car is on - together with an identity card and there really isn't anything the State won't know about you.
You see, the identity card, which has now completed its parliamentary hurdles and will soon become law, will grow slowly and insidiously to dominate our lives.
At the moment the politicians behind it are saying that it will only be compulsory when you apply for a passport.
It is a very short leap from there to make it compulsory to own one (at £300 for the privilege). It is then only a small step to make it law that you must carry it on your person.
Even before then, the requests by shops, banks, restaurants and all sorts of places to swipe your identity card as a verification of who you are before recording your financial transaction will make the State's enforcement of ID on request seem a mere irritation.
In time the State will, at the press of a few keys, be able to pull together on the screen your national insurance number, your taxes due and paid, your religion, race, state of health, bank balance, credit rating, the cafe you bought your coffee and croissant for breakfast at 08.39 am, where you bought your subscription to Amateur Photographer - and thanks to this new dashboard devil - where you are going to read it. The technology already exists to put the chip that reveals where your car is into your ID card so that it reveals where you are.
Put this together with the compulsory carrying of the card and the State will, within ten years, be able to know everything there is to know about you and where you are at any given moment in time at the flick of a computer screen.
It may sound fanciful, but there would be little difficulty in placing such a chip in our forehead or the back of our wrist - as we can already put such markers in pets.
Whether shopping at Waitrose or the Co-op the teller will simply scan the back of your hand like a barcode to deduct your money and relay to the faceless ones what you have bought, where and when. All of this will happen slowly and incrementally so that our resistance is low.
But it will happen - unless it is challenged from the beginning, ruled out and stopped before it gains too much momentum to prevent it taking over our lives.
As David Cameron searches for some ideas that will win him the support of the British people beyond just the usual Tories - without mentioning tax cuts, hanging murderers or difficult choices about health and education - he could do worse than put at the centre of his manifesto a commitment to unravel this whole control-freakery of Blair and Brown. It is the greatest threat to our liberty as we know it and it won't stop the terrorists - or road rage.
We are all free of any State compulsion and we are all innocent until proven guilty - but these developments would presume our guilt and restrain our lifestyle to the State's limits.
Cammy could make himself the people's champion by removing this whole edifice of secrecy and totalitarian control. It's up to him to make an issue of it, to make it a cause célèbre.
He shall have only one chance - and it could make all the difference to him beating Brown. David must take on this Goliath and his aim must be true.
FROM EDINBURGH TO AMERICA, THERE'S NO ESCAPE FROM SCOTTISH CUP HELL
I FLEW out to Washington very early on Monday morning for Tartan Week. What perfect timing, you might think?
No need to be in Edinburgh and face all my Jambo friends, by the time I get back Romanov will have sacked Hearts' manager [name inserted here] and we could all talk about other issues than the disappointingly disastrous semi-final.
Yeah, pull the other one, there's no escape from this purgatory.
I met part-time Jambo Alex Salmond last night and he let me off lightly by not mentioning the game at all. He didn't need to of course. His beaming, smiling face said it all. In a few days' time I will cross the path of full-time Jambo Eric Milligan and I don't expect him to be so magnanimous.
To cap it all, I was introduced to an interesting chap who, for reasons that will become clear, must remain anonymous. He had sold one of his businesses for $3bn (yes, three billion dollars) only to discover he was raised in Gorgie and is a Jambo.
If there's anything in the karma lark that your previous life influences your current one then I must have done some pretty bad things to go through this pain!
This article: http://edinburghnews.scotsman.com/op...m?id=535172006
Last updated: 07-Apr-06 12:41 BST