Every Move I Make

I step onto a metro or tram in Amsterdam and I swipe my transport card. This card has my photo and an RFID chip with personal information about who I am and where I live.  I swipe the card again upon exit, as per the rules, which goes onto a database that contains information about the duration of my ride, the cost, and locations.

I go buy bread at my favorite local bakery and the sign next to the cash register reads “debit only”, so i swipe my bank card.  The organic supermarket has the same policy, again, after I get the groceries I need, the card gets swiped. Again, somewhere a record is kept about what store I went to and how much I spent.

As a dedicated podcasting journalist, I am also considered a one-person business in the eyes of the government, a freelancer. Like people  all over the world, when I get paid there is a record of it. When I file taxes, they want to see my bank account, how much went in, how much went out, from where, to where.  Despite the fact that in my line of work these numbers are all very tiny, the tax authorities still shower me with paperwork, regulations, and warnings, every year.

There’s nothing revolutionary or really underhanded about the reality Im describing to you… this is regular life in much of the developed world. This system exists for a reason (or reasons) and to my knowledge there is no real alternative other than behavior that would require me to frantically hide from authorities.

That old cliché comes to mind whenever I step back and look at how this all works “If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear.” This is part of the logic that has helped usher in the era of intrusive but convenient automation and monitoring.  Even writing these words means I risk being seen as a cynic or wasting my time trying to critique a cultural shift that will not be reversed.

But to be perfectly honest, no matter how many cards I swipe, no matter how many records and receipts I hand over the the authorities, and no matter how little I have to hide, the poking and the prodding never ceases.  It is all supposed to be here to serve the public and help create a stable civic life, but often the system seems to be more focused on beating us down more than building us up.

 

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The Journeyman

Aeroporto Sá Carneiro, Porto, Portugal

“How many flights have you been on in the past year?” – the Lisbon airport employee is holding a stack of papers as she runs down a check list survey, the bright morning sun is filling the room through the glass walls. Despite my sleepy state I have a pretty good idea of the answer – 20.  “Business or pleasure” – she asks in a routine manner, not taking her eyes off the paper.  My work is my pleasure, I see friends and do work everywhere I go – so both, I respond.  She doesn’t seem impressed with what I always think is a cool-guy answer to give, not to mention that its the truth.

6 hour lay over in Lisbon, city that I love and has played an important role at almost every stage of my life. 2 hours the day before at Newark airport, a place that few people speak well of, yet I always feel at home as I wait for the flight back to Europe.  I know exactly what terminals are where, what gates are for what airlines, and around what time flights for different continents leave.  The people who have such knowledge are usually the business types. A category of traveler I might sound like, but I am most certainly not.

Unlike the business travelers who travel as much if not more than I do, I’m not part of any special club that gives me extra perks. I don’t stay at multi-star hotels, I couch surf. I don’t go to convention centers directly to the hotel-bar, I make time to wander around the places I travel to and speak with people who live and work there, a side effect of my personal journalistic mission in life. I don’t drink myself to sleep off free booze on the plane and I don’t try and make one more phone call as the plane is pulling away from the gate. My travel itinerary may look like that of an international business veteran, but the truth is my travel adventures have been constructed out of clever planning, the goodwill of others, and work that values my expertise enough to fund the trip. Some might know all about what club lounge has the best buffet, I know about what seat in couch gives me the most comfort and ease with getting off and on the plane. Where they may know who’s first class has the best sleeper seats, I know what airlines let coach passengers bring an extra carry-on item to help avoid lost or delayed luggage claim upon arrival.

A few months ago I mentioned (on twitter) a concern for the cost of a conference where I was going to be speaking. This concern was met by some criticism among some who said that for all my traveling, how could I complain about money? Back in the US I know some who say they’d love to visit other countries, but don’t have the money. What neither of these groups realizes is that when it comes to traveling, there is a long list of ways to do it on the cheap. Even with the cost of flights being what seems to be higher than ever, a clever planner and a passionate explorer can find a way. Managing to see some of the world, doesn’t mean you need to be rolling in dough.  Money may play a role, but the desire to really travel matters just as much, if not more. I’m no businessman, but I’ve managed to get around so far in my life – I say you can too.

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ctrp354 The Next Economic Meltdown & Cheesecake

From the Archives - Max in London

Max Kaiser’s website is among the most popular sites to visit in Washington DC among Homeland Security employees. They’re such regular and enthusiastic visitors, Max says they are helping to pay his salary, and they’re most welcome to do so.

Through his program on Russia Today and Press TV, Max Kaiser (along with Stacy Herbert) continues to expose the truth about the global economy and who is benefiting while so many lose everything. In this return appearance on citizenreporter.org Max gets into why he likes working for RT and Press TV, while telling the story of the only global media outlet to ever sensor his reporting.

In between, there is cheesecake.

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