Little Brother and America as a police state

On Jer’s recommendation, I’m reading Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, which you can and should download for free from his site.

The book is a fictional account of a high school kid — a smart, technologically skilled high school kid — who ends up on the wrong side of the Department of Homeland Security after a terrorist attack in San Francisco. As I sat in Dulles airport last night waiting for my flight back to Boston, I realized just how much information I put online and how little effort it would take the DHS to throw me in a holding cell were the American government so inclined.

I came to work this morning to news that the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has approved the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act, which among other things gives the president the power to force ISPs and search engines to limit or shut down connections at his whim. Oh, and by the way, the ACLU has announced that “Americans have been put under surveillance or harassed by the police just for deciding to organize, march, protest, espouse unusual viewpoints and engage in normal, innocuous behaviors such as writing notes or taking photographs in public” in at least 33 states.

I’m trying not be alarmist about this, but maybe I should be?

just breathe.

I’m nearing the end of grad school and starting to get a bit nervous about finding a job.

I’m nearing the end of grad school and starting to get a bit nervous about finding a job. Google spreadsheets full of companies, NGOs and university research institutes — some hiring, more not — are constantly open in Firefox, Idealist is constantly being refreshed, networks are being tapped. There is an abundance of stress.

I was cleaning out a drawer yesterday and ran across a stack of index cards held together with a yellow binder clip. In the statistics class I help teach at SIPA, I ask my students to write down an interesting fact about themselves on the first day of class. It’s a fun way to get to know people, and sometimes it’s easier for me to remember who’s afraid of emus or whose favorite color is mauve than whose name is Greg or Jamie.

I shuffled through the cards before tossing them in the recycling bin and came across one I had forgotten, less “interesting fact” and more “dark confession”:

I was almost singlehandedly responsible for the near collapse of global capitalism in my former career.

You know? All things considered, my life could be much worse.