I had this in mind for two things going on in the world of the good old US of A . . . drone strikes and government surveillance on all of us.
Drone Strikes. Seemed to me that I was okay with them in principle. There are bad guys. We should prevent them from hurting us. That can involve multiple things, like going to war over entire countries, good intelligence gathering, arrests, perhaps even targeted assassinations as a last resort. Drone Strikes seemed to fall in that last category. We should do something, and they seemed at least a lesser evil than invading another country. But we didn't seem to have the oversight for it; it became a "kill list" approved by Obama and his cronies. Now I'm sure the president is careful and mindful of who gets on that list, but still seemed to me that there ought to be more checking and balancing going on, like this NY Times article from back in February requests. Then there was also the fact that they were counting "enemy combatants" in a way that was really fishy (bascially any male over a certain age was counted). The actual numbers of civilians killed are gut-wrenching. That began to turn into the Joker's line from the Dark Knight Returns:
"You know what I noticed? Nobody panics when things go according to plan, even if the plan is horrifying. If tomorrow I tell the press like, that, like, a gang-banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it's all part of the plan. But when I say that one little ol' mayor will die, then everybody loses their minds!"So what if a few innocent Arabs get killed in drone strikes? That's just part of the plan.
That plan is horrifying.
These strikes seemed to be garnering us more enemies than it might be worth. And it takes a pretty serious psychological toll on the drone pilots themselves.
But you know what? Rand Paul got into it. President Obama finally gave a briefing to Congress about it. The CIA is no longer is allowed to use drones, just the military. The White House gave a briefing on its rules for drone strikes in response to all this hubbub. In short, I watched as I gathered links to do a blog post that the things I was up in arms about were, slowly, being fixed. Now, we're not there yet, but we're getting there and the system is working.
With regards to government surveillance, I had been on this back in 2008, even sending a letter to my Senator, Orrin Hatch, back when FISA was up for renewal because part of the renewal was to grant retroactive immunity to the telecomm companies who were just handing over ALL of their data to the government without any kind of warrant. Senator Hatch was kind enough to write me back and explain why he thought the companies should not be prosecuted for handing over the data in a good-faith effort to be good citizens. He did not address the actual issue, which was that the government was collecting ALL of that data without a warrant. I'm not sure if I move back to Utah that I'll be voting for him anymore.
Glenn Greenwald had been on this for a while too, and I began collecting things to do a blog post on it. But now that Edward Snowden dropped all of his revelations, and the press has been picking it up, there's been good movement on these fronts too. We're not there yet either, but I'm no longer as queezy about my 4th amendment rights anymore. Also, gathering email metadata can yield some very interesting results. As an example, here is my gmail metadata all coordinated for me by MIT and displayed in a visual fashion. You can see my family (green), my DC friends (red), my scholar friends (brown), my local church congregation (blue) and even some of my professors at CUA (pink), all linked through just knowing who I sent what emails to at what time.
And my gmail metadata for the month and a half I was in Utah earlier this summer, you can see that huge group of green off alone in the corner. That's the summer seminar participants.
So even collecting metadata could have interesting repercussions for privacy. There are some interesting repercussions of even knowing that the NSA is looking at so much of our stuff, like this series of updates on a story of an innocent series of google searches that got law enforcement to show up at someone's door. Watch how it starts off all conspiracy theory-like, but then is slowly walked back to a story that's interesting, but not nearly as paranoia-inducing. But, again, with so much knowledge of these things getting out, the problem is slowly self-correcting.
I'm not saying that all problems will self-correct given enough time. I'm too much of a pessimist to think that. And sometimes saying "wait and see" is the wrong moral response, like in the case of Civil Rights. But some of the problems we face will self-correct given enough time. These two examples of blog posts I wanted to do, that ended up starting to sort themselves out (largely) if I was too lazy to just start the blog post the week or so after I thought of it.
As the final example of something that fixed itself over time . . . last year, Hostess went out of business. This made me mad. I don't eat Twinkies, like, a lot, but I do eat them. I admit, this was me when I heard the news. And, yup, I was going to blog about it.
So, since they were going the way of the dodo, I went and bought a few boxes the next day.
I was sad. No longer could I tell people about the Twinkie Diet that actually works. Because, you know, you actually have to burn more than you take in, silly dieters.
So it was RIP Twinkies. (From the Washington Post Peep Show.)
But . . . Twinkies are back, baby! For one of our weekly SciFi nights back in January, I brought the last two Twinkies I had purchased when Hostess went out of business. My friend Dan and I watched Zombieland, and then ate them. A fitting tribute.
Well, this week for SciFi night, we watched Zombieland again, and ate Twinkies, which, sans unions, are back on the shelves again! (Nathan, was nice to have you at SciFi nights.)
Sometimes things just gradually work themselves out. This can be true for things as mundane as Twinkies, or as complicated as Iran (we'll see how that goes, but it seems possible the up and coming generation might help things there).
My point is this. If you see that the sky is falling, take a breath, wait a little while, and eat a Twinkie. Keep your eye on it, but just maybe it will just fix itself as we all do our jobs and move forward as humans working on complicated issues.