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February, 9th 2010

Virginia moves against forcible microchipping?

– Liz Mair

I rarely write about Virginia politics but after an, um, interesting conversation with my friend, the notorious Not Larry Sabato, tonight, I'm going to post a little, teensy comment about something, well, odd.

Over the weekend, the Virginian-Pilot ran an editorial entitled "Tinfoil hats are not enough."  Here is part of it:

A Spotsylvania County delegate is sponsoring legislation this year that would put an end to a disturbing threat to public safety. Virginians are in danger of having top-secret microchips implanted against their will.

It must be true because the General Assembly is considering a law against it, and the Internet is full of warnings about the danger.[intro]

The alarming prospect of involuntary micro-chipping naturally has some people wondering whether they are already victims. Since symptoms include coughing unnessarily and hearing dogs barking when no dogs are around, there’s at least a fair chance.

Other symptoms include terrorists repeating victims’ thoughts inside their heads. The microchips have the ability to record those conversations and play them back. Somehow — perhaps involving lasers — the miniature computer circuits can also make 3-D scans of victims’ bodies while they sleep. It’s not known whether the scans are in color or black and white.

Del. Mark Cole apparently wants such blatant violations of privacy to cease, but other legislators have so watered down his bill that only insurance companies and employers are banned from using “tracking devices ... transmitting an individual’s identity, characteristics, status, group membership, travel history or location.” The penalty is a mere $500, which would be paid into the Literary Fund for school construction.

Don't worry, I won't excerpt the rest.  It's tempting, but I won't.  Instead, let me ask a question: What is going on here?

Well, for starters, here's a little background.  According to Delegate Dave Albo (who should please email me and correct me if I'm wrong), this is all about parents potentially wanting chips planted in their children as a tracking tool lest they get lost or kidnapped. However, according to Cole himself, from a statement given to Not Larry Sabato ("Once these devices are implanted, the person can be tracked 24/7 not just at work"-- emphasis mine), as well as the above, it appears that Cole is rather more concerned about employers forcing their employees to get "chipped."

OK.  That's not the "Mark of the Beast" type stuff that Not Larry Sabato seems to be asserting.  But it does strike me as a) a tad "black helicopter crowd"-ish (and I say this as a part-time, associate member of that very same crowd) b) duplicative and/or unncessary and c) focused on something that seems like it might be a little less of a broad, district-wide (let alone state-wide) issue than, say, unemployment, energy, or transportation.

To take these in turns (apart from c), which is self-explanatory and obvious), I know ID chips have become popular for insertion into pets and things, but I have yet to hear anyone talk about "chipping" their employees (ditto their kids, for that matter).  Maybe there are some new trends in employment practices of which I am unaware (I do, after all, work from home a lot), but is there really a real prospect of this happening and do we need to guard against it via legislation?  Now?  I'm dubious.

Separate to that, however, there's already this thing called a charge for assault, and I cannot fathom how, as a matter of law, that wouldn't cover forcible insertion of a foreign object into, say, one's arm, by one's employer or an agent of one's employer (I'd imagine it would probably cover forcible chipping of kids for pre-emptive "safety" reasons by or on behalf of parents, too).  If the intention here is to create an additional crime to rack up the penalties applicable to anyone committing this kind of assault, well, OK, I guess, but a $500 fine seems like a pretty weak penalty to attach for something that amounts to assault (I am assuming the Virginian-Pilot was reporting, not making up, that bit).

I suppose there's no harm in the Delegates actually passing this (it was supposed to be debated today, for what that's worth).  That is, apart from providing liberal bloggers with endless entertainment and the ability to mercilessly mock Republicans with seemingly half-decent cause. 

That's a situation I generally try to advise my clients to avoid procuring, but if Cole wants to go there, I guess so be it.  I hope this is all playing better in Spotsylvania than it is in Rosslyn, though.

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