Thursday, June 20, 2013

A thank you note to Michael Hastings

Disclaimer: I'm not, in general, a conspiracy theory kind of person. I'm also not stupid.

The world no longer has Michael Hastings in it, and that's an enormous loss. He was unflinchingly honest, brave, articulate and passionate. 

We know that the FBI was investigating him. We know that he brought down gen. Stanley McChrystal and facilitated the wind down of the war in Afghanistan. We know that he was working on a piece about the NSA. We know that he contacted wikileaks about an hour before he died. We know that he was in a single vehicle accident, that his car exploded and that he hit a tree in Hollywood. We will never ever know the order in which those last two events occurred. 

My hope is that every single investigative journalist and balls-out political analyst channels Michael Hastings and pushes every edge of every envelope. Sorry to put you guys on the spot, but there are only so many cars that can go up in flames before it starts to look kinda odd. Meanwhile, take taxis, folks. And/or check under your cars. And thanks, all of you who put your asses on the line so the rest of us can know stuff. Thank you.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Villains and heroes

Edward Snowden gave up everything - a high paid position, a home in Hawaii, and any kind of real freedom, even if he gets to a safe haven country, his relationships, everything - because he knew the US government has been unconstitutionally drag netting all information across internet and phone records and calls, theoretically under the patriot act and specifically section 215 which is supposed to apply to business. Without probable cause, anyone who works for these agencies can monitor your emails, your calls, your internet activity, the prescription your doctor gave you. Anyone. Anyone who works for one of these contracted agencies who is pissed off at an ex, anyone who wants to take a big lump of cash from another government, or from someone who wants to frame someone else for their actions and can afford to pay for it, anyone. These are regular people with regular lives and all the kinds of personal issues any of our coworkers have ever had. For disclosing that this is going on, he's being called a traitor. I think he's an incredible hero.

What I want to know is, when we're closing down public schools because we can't afford them, denying food assistance to children, cutting necessary government services (and those are the kinds of services government is there for in the first place, to build roads, to maintain infrastructures, to maintain the underpinnings of a society), we have money to pay people to read my email and listen to my phone calls? You know, just in case.

In Philadelphia, almost 4000 people will be laid off in order to close down enough schools to save $300 million on the budget - the same budget that is funding a $400 million dollar correctional facility. And oh, guess what? The schools closing have an 81% black population and 91% low income. Anyone want to guess what the proportion of the prison population is by those two categories? You already know the answer. We can't afford education, but we can afford to contract companies to see if I might just by chance be doing something unnecessarily interesting, or maybe just for the fuck of it.

Yeah, I can really see how the true problem here is Edward Snowden.