"If you made a phone call today or sent an email to a friend, there's a good chance what you said or wrote was captured and screened by the country's largest intelligence agency." - Steve Kroft reporting on 60 Minutes, February 2000.
Last week's revelations, although shocking and dismaying, should not have been surprising - as indicated by the 2006 article above, if you didn't know about the surveillance programs until now, you just weren't paying attention.
Having maintained this blog for close to a decade now, I can only assume that the government has scanned every word I've written here and that their software has already profiled me for my political, religious, and psychological characteristics, as well as potential for threat. But apparently, even if you haven't maintained an on-line blog for 10 years, they've done the same thing with you.
As you've no doubt noticed, a lot's been going on in the news lately. Today saw the overturn of the Defense of Marriage Act and its associated ban on gay marriage, as well as California's Proposition 8. This is a good thing, and I'm glad that we have finally abolished that legal enshrinement of discrimination and moved a little closer to treating all loving couples as equal human beings.
But yesterday's gutting of the Voting Rights Act was a grim reminder of the sad nature of American politics. As a resident of one of those states where Department of Justice review was required for any changes to its voting laws, I can assure you that politicians here won't waste any time seizing the opportunity to disenfranchise as many minority voters as they can. The Supreme Court was actually correct in that the country has changed quite a bit since the 1960s, and the motivation nowadays to disenfranchise minorities is not strictly bigotry, but politics. Minorities, you see, are less likely to re-elect Red State politicians, and for years now, the ruling party here has been trying to pass restrictive rules in the name of mitigating the non-existent problem of "voter fraud," while everyone clearly saw that their real motive was to try to keep those with opposing political views away from the polling places.
The majority party already has drawn maps in Georgia that reduced Democratic voting performance last year. Georgia isn't as monochromaticly red as many people think - nearly 50 percent of the state's residents are Democrats or lean Democratic, but the gerrymandered maps have diminished the voting strength to 32 percent. Now that the Supreme Court has removed the last impediment to redistricting and so-called anti-voting-fraud rules, I will guarantee you that the Georgia Legislature won't waste any time passing laws to make it more difficult for the poor, Latinos, and people of color to vote here, and to make sure that the votes they can't prevent result in fewer elected officials.
Georgia congressman John Lewis was one of the persons as responsible for the passage of the Voting Rights Act as anybody, famously getting beaten nearly to death during a march in Alabama in the early 1960s. I'm proud to live in his District and to have him represent me in Congress, and with this set-back to our liberties, I'm resolute in my commitment to do what I can to keep him in Congress for as long as he's still willing to serve.
That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger.