Monthly Archives: June 2013

Forgive All Student Loan Debt

“With all the other high-anxiety news out there — from NSA snooping to Syria to the trial of Trayvon Martin’s killer — there’s a quiet crisis that could get lost in the shuffle: If Congress doesn’t act, on July 1, students attending school on subsidized Stafford student loans — loans awarded on the basis of economic need — will see their interest rates double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

“Brandon Anderson is one of those students, and he’s started a petition urging Congress to keep the loan rate from doubling. Brandon, a veteran who is working with the I Am Not a Loan campaign, is worried about graduating with around $25,000 in debt, and with good reason. For someone just starting out on a career in an uncertain economy, debt like that — and for many students, it’s even more — can be a major obstacle to getting established in life, starting a family, and all the things we used to take for granted for young adults.

“Not surprisingly, this burden falls heaviest on young people of color, who remain on the losing end of America’s yawning racial wealth gap.”

Reading and Screening

Here’s a reading list and a filmography for those lassitudinous days of summer.

Books I read Spring semester when I should have been doing other things:

David Peace, Nineteen Seventy-Four

I’d set this crime novel against anything written by James Ellroy or Massimo Carlotto in terms of its terse syntax and hardcore violence. The basis (with the other books from the Red Riding Quartet) for a series of recent film adaptations. Peace’s four novels have been celebrated as “an occult history of Thatcherism” (i.e. neoliberalism).

Continue reading

Edward Snowden and the Ethics of Truth Telling

“The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.

“The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.

“Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world’s most secretive organisations – the NSA.”

Crime (HUM415)

From the Oxford English Dictionary:

crime, n.

Pronunciation:  Brit. /krʌɪm/ , U.S. /kraɪm/
Forms:  ME crym, ME–16 cryme, ME– crimeSc. pre-17 chryme, pre-17 17 cryme, pre-17 17– crime.
Etymology:  < Anglo-Norman and Old French, Middle French crime (French crime ) sin, wrongdoing, criminal act (12th cent.; in Middle French also accusation (15th cent.)) < classical Latin crīmen charge, accusation, matter for accusation or blame, reproach, offence, misdeed, in post-classical Latin also sin (late 2nd or early 3rd cent. in Tertullian) < the base of cernere cern v.1 + -men (see -ment suffix). Compare Old Occitan crim, Catalan crim (13th cent.), Spanish crimen (13th cent.), †crim (14th cent.), Portuguese crime (13th cent.), Italian crimine (a1306).

The Surveillance State III

“The Obama administration is invoking an obscure legal privilege to avoid judicial scrutiny of its secret collection of the communications of potentially millions of Americans.

“Civil liberties lawyers trying to hold the administration to account through the courts for its surveillance of phone calls and emails of American citizens have been repeatedly stymied by the government’s recourse to the “military and state secrets privilege”. The precedent, rarely used but devastating in its legal impact, allows the government to claim that it cannot be submitted to judicial oversight because to do so it would have to compromise national security.”

The Surveillance State II

“The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.

“The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called PRISM, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.

“The Guardian has verified the authenticity of the document, a 41-slide PowerPoint presentation – classified as top secret with no distribution to foreign allies – which was apparently used to train intelligence operatives on the capabilities of the program. The document claims “collection directly from the servers” of major US service providers.”

The Surveillance State

“The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

“The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

“The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.”